Why use us?
In a survey of clients returning from their ski holidays in 2011, The Oxford Ski Company, a luxury ski travel specialist, asked 'Were you aware that we neither mark up nor charge an arrangement fee for our services, which makes booking with us no more expensive than booking with the chalet directly?'. A massive 76% answered 'no', which prompts the question of how the image and function of a Travel Agent has changed over the years.
In today's internet age we all seem to believe that booking direct is not only easy , but essential if you want to pay the lowest price, get the best value for money or make the right decisions.
In reality, however, the DIY approach means hours of trawling the net, plus plenty of indecision and uncertainty. Putting together a holiday might include researching several airlines, hire cars and accommodation options, to say nothing of researching possible destinations and things to do, see and book when you're there. This can be even more of a headache if you're delegated organiser for a large group!
However, today's 'boutique' agents really can help you to put together the holiday of your dreams, but also save you time and money in doing so.
Here are our top reasons for finding a great agent and keeping them on speed dial:
1. Save time - get someone to do the hard work for you.
A good agent will really take the time to understand you, your likes, dislikes, holiday must-haves and also your budget. Sit back and let them do the research, ringing around and negotiating on your behalf - it's what they're good at. Then simply choose from the options they put forward for you, safe in the knowledge that you're picking from the best shortlist for your needs.
2. You won't pay any more than if you book direct - and an agent's service is FREE!
Agents don't 'mark up' prices or add on their own commission - you will pay exactly the same price through an agent as you would booking direct. In fact, agents have access to great deals, so you may even get more for your money. It's natural to expect that you are somehow going to end up paying for such a useful service, but when you get all the great benefits from using an agent, someone else is picking up the tab as the hotel owner or airline takes the hit on the agent's commission, and they are willing to do so to secure the booking.
3. Benefit from expert knowledge - life's too short to memorise a guide book
A good agent will heavily invest in staff training and you will be speaking to someone with expert, personal knowledge of destinations and properties. They will know if 'sea view' means you can see a tiny strip of blue on the horizon, or if 'suitable for children' neglects to mention the 10ft sheer drop in the garden. They will also have invaluable 'in-the-know' advice about the best things to do, see and avoid - as well as an address book bursting with contacts to get you the window table at the best restaurant in town or a private-chef you will want to take home with you. However, agents also understand that, for some, being involved in the planning of a holiday is part of the fun, and are happy to work as much or as little in partnership with you as you like.
4. They're on your side - and are more honest and impartial than a website.
A good agent is working for you, rather than for any particular hotel, villa or airline. You will benefit from their negotiating power and they will strive to secure the best possible price on your behalf. Crucially, they will also be honest and objective about which villa, ski chalet or hotel to choose - they are keen to get your repeat business, so they're not going to recommend options that are wrong for you. When booking direct, every website will tell you that each hotel or villa has the best view, best pool, and 'luxury', 'peaceful' and 'spacious' mean different things to different people! However, an agent who understands what you're looking for will advise you on the basis of recent, personal experience of the property or area. In fact, the more you work with a particular agent, and build a relationship with them, the better they will get to know you and understand your requirements.
5. They're specialists in their area - and love what they do.
Today's agents are often referred to as 'boutique' or specialist agents. They often have a specific area of expertise (such as skiing, villas or yacht charters), or will be experts in certain destinations. As a result, you will invariably talk to someone not only knowledgeable, but also passionate about what they do - and you'll receive a level of service only ever dreamed of in the days of Lunn Poly!
6. You want to be on holiday while you're on holiday (and preferably beforehand, as well!)
Who wouldn't want to avoid stress or time spent sorting out problems on holiday ? If there's a problem or query, your agent will still be on hand to sort it out, from missed flights to missing hire cars. In addition, great agents often offer full concierge services, free as part of their service, making planning a holiday so much easier. The holiday itself should then go swimmingly as everything is well organised before you go - think of your agent as your personal Travel PA.
7. You have a family
Travelling with babies, children or teenagers can either be the absolute highlight or the most stressful time of your year. Suddenly whether the pool has a fence, whether the room can fit a cot or whether your teenagers have enough to keep them occupied is of utmost importance. A good agent will understand that having the right food in the fridge, the right toys in the playroom and the most sought-after babysitter in town already booked for you really will make all the difference - as any parent will tell you 'if the kids are happy, we're happy'.
8. Holidays are precious.
Whether you rarely get to spend time as a family, or your holiday is your only opportunity to step away from stress and totally unwind, holidays mean a lot - we look forward to them and spend hard-earned cash on them. Using an agent increases your chances of making the RIGHT decisions and really making the most of that precious time off, turning your holiday wishes into reality, saving you money and making the whole process easy and stress free, allowing you to just sit back, relax and enjoy your holiday.