The Internet vs. Travel Professional
You’ve worked for a long time to save money and accumulate vacation days. At long last, you can begin planning that dream trip. It appears there are two contenders at the main event – keep reading before you choose your corner. We think it’s a TKO in nine rounds.
Round #1 Price vs. Value
A co-worker has been bragging about the incredible “deal” he got on a recent Caribbean cruise. He devoted many hours to The Internet, searching dozens of sites for what he believes is the lowest possible price. True, there was no window in his tiny stateroom, he spent a lot of time tripping over luggage, the engine noise down there on Deck 2 was a bit unnerving (not to mention the grinding of the anchor at 5 a.m. on several port days), and he’s never actually stayed in any other type of stateroom so he has no point of comparison, but, hey, he saved money, right? vs. Travel Professional suggests that spending just $50.00 more per night will move you up 12 categories into a bright and beautiful stateroom on peaceful Deck 9 with 40% more space and amazing views from your private verandah. Oh, and there’s actually a tub so you won’t be trying to bathe your 4 y.o. in the sink! You hadn’t even considered that. When you return home, you often recall sitting on that verandah each evening and thinking it was the best $50.00 you ever spent.
Round #2 Value vs. Price
This is a truly special trip and you want to splurge a bit. You’ve been doing your homework on The Internet and find there is a lot written by people you don’t know about a particular premium view at your chosen resort. You decide to go for it and hope it’s as wonderful as promised by your new virtual friends, since it’s going to cost you an extra $1,200.00 for the week. vs. Having stayed at this resort a number of times in a variety of rooms, Travel Professional advises you to pass on this upgrade. In fact, the much-touted view is not all that great, particularly when compared to other resorts in the area with which TP is also familiar. The less-expensive views are quite lovely and come with exactly the same room configuration. Also, because you have so many activities planned, you won’t have more than a few minutes each day to enjoy that pricey vista, anyway. Rather than paying $100 per minute for a view you’ll barely see, TP offers other suggestions for that splurge including some private excursions you didn’t know about, or using the money as a hefty deposit on your next trip.
Round #3 Lifetime memories vs. Crossed off the to-do list
It’s a destination you’ve always wanted to visit and TP has made all the arrangements. In the months leading up to your departure, you’ve received a great deal of information from TP about the area’s history and culture as well as the many things to see and do. All that preparation pays off. You arrive feeling relaxed and excited, find you have a deeper appreciation for everything you encounter, and enjoy the opportunity to experience things that most visitors never dream of. vs. An old friend who has long shared your desire to travel to this same place decides to take advantage of a last-minute deal on a “cheap vacations” site. Unfortunately, the hotel is not centrally-located and a considerable portion of each day is spent shuttling to and from places of interest. Even if there had been time to become more familiar with some of the high points on the itinerary, any pleasure is greatly diminished by the hours spent waiting in long lines to see them.
Round #4 Welcome, welcome Mr. and Mrs. Smith! vs. I’m sorry, your name is what?
Whatever its rating, pretty much every hotel has at least a few less-than-desirable rooms. And, you can assume that booking your stay through an online travel agency on The Internet moves you straight to the top of the list for this type of accommodation. Expect to find yourself in the yet-to-be-remodeled section; the room that’s too small for a king-sized bed and has only a double; the unit next to the noisy elevator or ice machine; the one with the view of the dumpsters. vs. The same hotel is booked through Travel Professional who has a special relationship with the property. Turns out, you still end up getting an excellent rate. You arrive to find the General Manager standing in the lobby to greet you personally. Your room has been upgraded to one with an expansive, and expensive, city view. You discover a flower arrangement and bottle of wine waiting for you as well as an invitation to enjoy breakfast each day at no additional charge. By the way, don’t forget to take advantage of that $100.00 credit which you can use toward a wonderful dinner, or perhaps a relaxing spa treatment.
Round #5 Hidden pitfall vs. Hidden gem
Being the first one in your crowd to discover a new place is rewarding and you think you’ve found “the next big thing.” The online photos of this secluded island hideaway are gorgeous and you’re looking forward to an idyllic week of sun, sand, and relaxation. Upon arrival, you quickly realize that the surroundings certainly are “lush and verdant” as promised, but the jungle where your resort sits is located several miles from the water. The beach, a public beach as it happens, is crowded with local residents and guests from a surprisingly large number of other “undiscovered” non-waterfront properties. Unfortunately, you don’t spend much time in your private plunge pool either – if only you’d thought to bring mosquito repellant and citronella candles. vs. As a member of an elite consortium, your TP has access to a carefully-vetted list of the world’s most exciting new properties. You’ll be provided with all the details and know exactly what to expect before you arrive. You not only have the opportunity to be among the first to experience them, but your stay also includes a number of special extras and exclusive amenities.
Round #6 Pay out of one pocket vs. Pay out of another pocket
When you booked your own tickets on cheapestflightsintheworld.com you didn’t pay much attention to the fact that the two long layovers with plane changes meant you wouldn’t arrive at your off-the-beaten-path destination until 1:00 a.m. You didn’t realize that there would be an extra service charge either, but by the time you’d gotten to that page, you were too tired to start over again, and made the purchase. More worrisome – when you did finally touch down you learned that there was no available ground transportation to your distant hotel until the next morning and you spent your first night sitting on an orange plastic chair. vs. A review of your flight options leads Travel Professional to recommend a flight with a slightly higher price because it has only one brief stop and lands you at your destination in time to enjoy most of the day there. In fact, you probably would have chosen this one yourself, but didn’t notice it in your online search results. TP has also remembered to arrange car service for you and when you arrive, you’re pleased to see a smiling driver holding a sign with your name on it. He briskly assists you and your luggage into an air-conditioned vehicle and your vacation has begun!
Round #7 Minor inconvenience vs. Major frustration
Stuff happens – snow falls, hurricanes develop, mechanical parts break down, workers strike, volcanoes erupt. Flights are delayed, rerouted, cancelled. If your ticket was purchased on TI, you should make certain you have a clear understanding of the procedure for rebooking flights before you leave home. You should also be prepared to spend a long time on the phone or at the ticket counter, making that happen (refer to Round #6 above –plastic chair). vs. TP has a direct connection to the airlines and available seat inventory and is YOUR connection if things go awry. Airlines typically monitor both weather and social issues that interfere with flight schedules and will send TP bulletins providing guidelines for rebooking. TP will often be at work rescheduling your flight even before you call.
Round #8 – Least expensive vs. Most expensive
The least expensive way to travel is hitchhiking with a backpack. If you harbor any concerns whatsoever about personal safety or comfort, you can upgrade to camping. There’s little need here for either The Internet or Travel Professional in terms of actual travel arrangements, unless you want to map out highways or campsites. vs. The most expensive way to travel, and arguably the best, is private jet. This is also a no-brainer. TI is only useful to help you locate the nearest TP – investing tens of thousands to millions of dollars in a vacation requires the services of someone who knows what they’re doing.
In truth, the vast majority of travelers draw a line in the sand at some other place on the beach. Deciding where that line should be has a lot to do with understanding your individual preferences. The best answers typically come from knowing the right questions. Every unfortunate scenario above could have been mitigated or avoided entirely by asking the right questions. The Internet is not in the business of asking questions. Asking questions IS the business of Travel Professional.
Round #9 Customer vs. Client
The primary purpose of an online booking engine is to prompt you, the customer, to make a purchase. It’s deliberately simplified and streamlined to encourage your decision to buy. You are not a person. You are series of 0’s and 1’s in a computer system; a system that does not have the capacity to consider your actual travel experience, with the possible exception of a record of past activity, and has no other services to offer. The intention is volume, you are as much a commodity as the product being sold, and the focus has nothing to do with your personal satisfaction beyond the site’s ease of use. vs. A Travel Professional understands that technology is a tool not a service. Despite the many innovations of the digital world, the finest travel experiences are still dependent on a very analog process – personal relationships. A strong advisor/client relationship encourages a rich and evolving appreciation for what is truly important to that traveler. A strong advisor/supplier relationship opens up a world of options to help make that traveler’s dreams a reality. The focus has everything to do with your personal satisfaction because the advisor does not want a customer, but a client – a long-term collaboration. The Travel Professional is deeply invested in the success of your trip and will lose sleep worrying about it – we can assure you that The Internet never gives another thought to your plans!