By Tom Brussow
President-Sunsational Beach Vacations
The mega online travel sites (OTAs as we call them), seemingly have done an effective job with their enormous advertising budgets of convincing the general public that they are the place to go to book a vacation.
But are they really? Does the consumer even know what they don't know?
Not infrequently, we'll get a call on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon from an exasperated consumer now seemingly desperate for our help. Having just wasted two hours or more of their precious weekend shopping online for a beach vacation; they are now more confused, frustrated and exhausted than when they started.
A few harmless Google searches sent them off into five different directions - none of which have led them to a conclusion about which destination, resort, or price is best for them.
Occasionally I will ask them some version of this question..."why would you waste your valuable time and energy doing this when there are professionals here who'll do the work for you and help you to make a better informed buying decision?"
Here's what they'll sometimes say (and what I think to myself when they say it):
"I thought it would be fun"... By fun, did you mean the headache you get from the brain numbing array of highly similar resort choices, room categories, trip prices, tour and excursion options and airline booking policies to interpret and understand?
"I heard they have the best deals"...Yes, if by the best deals, you mean the same prices and often better added value promotional and group travel offers that we as travel agents have easy access to from our tour operator and resort suppliers.
"I've never worked with a travel agent before"...Well, I will do my best to make sure it's not the last time! It's kind of like getting legal or medical advise online...sure the information is there, but do you really feel comfortable making a decision without actually talking to a professional?
As your vacation consultants, we bring a wealth of first-hand experience that you can't find online. I personally have been to Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii close to 80 times. Along the way, I have stayed at or visited more than 200 different resorts. Collectively, our team has more than 40 years of travel industry experience. In addition, we have booked thousands of clients to a wide range of resorts and have their experiences and feedback to draw upon when we make recommendations for your trip.
The OTA sites essentially just hand you a big menu of options and it's up to you to figure out what's really good and what just looks good. Is this really the best approach when you are about to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation?
So don't be fooled! There is absolutely no advantange to researching and booking your beach vacation on your own on an OTA website.
Here's Six Very Good Reasons Why:
#1-How much is your time worth?
Most people are super-stressed with work, kids, what's going to happen next on Game of Thrones and a million other things. Life is short so use your time wisely. Get the help of a professional who does this for a living and save yourself the time and stress.
#2-Why pay in full at the time of booking when you don't have to?This is a big deal. We offer low upfront deposits and easy payment terms. In most cases, your final trip payment isn't due until 45 days before your trip. Why would you book online and be forced to pay in full at the time of booking for a trip you might not be taking until 8 months later?
#3- How much do you have to pay us for our time, energy and expertise? NOTHING!
Yes, it is true. We do NOT charge a fee for our time, services, or expertise. This is a amazing deal for you as the consumer. However, if you wanted to slip us a ten spot, we would probably take it!
#4- If you find a better price online, we'll match it!
Yes, we price match against the online websites and other travel agency competitors. If you find a lower price for the exact same vacation, just let us know and we'll match it!
#5- If something goes wrong, who's on your side?
While the vast majority of trips come off without a hitch, occasionally things do happen. Flights get cancelled, a resort is not the right match, or something else comes up and you need help. If you have a personal relationship with one of our vacation specialists, you have the peace of mind of knowing that person will be there when you need them.
Or, you could be in the position of calling the reservation center of an OTA and take your chances that the person on the other end will have the time, interest, contacts or the knowledge to help you. Seriously, which scenario would you rather have if you were on your own in Mexico and needed help?
#6- And finally, who do you trust?
Unlike the online travel websites, we are not a mega volume-based, transaction-driven business model. We work with you on a one-to-one basis. We know you and understand your wants, needs and expectations.
On the other hand, the only thing the OTAs really seem to know about you is your web browsing history! Did you know that a recent study showed that several online websites actually manipulated their prices based on their customer's online shopping behavior?...What the @$##??
While we do business nationally, we are a relatively small, local business based in Wisconsin. Our success depends on your repeat business and on your personal endorsement to your family and friends and the referral business that brings. We have to do our job right each and every time or risk losing a customer forever.
I am not sure the OTAs feel this same sense of responsibility. When you have millions of faceless customers, if you lose a few due to poor service or a poor vacation experience...oh we'll, there's more where were those came from!
So, the next time you get the urge to jump online to search for a trip, give us a call or send us a quick e-mail instead. Use that valuable time to take a nap, play some golf, hang out with a friend or go to the gym and get your abs in "beach ready" condition.
Just tell us when you want to go, how long you want to stay and about how much you want to spend. Give us some insights into the type of vacation experience you are dreaming about.
From there, we'll get to work doing our job...finding you just the right vacation at the right price!