Why Even Die-Hard DIYers Need a Travel Adviser
Lucrative perks and reduced rates are just a couple of the selling points.
Travel advisers can show you off-the-beaten-path places and experiences you may not find in your own research.(Getty Images)
For travelers who enjoy staying involved in the trip-planning process, enlisting the help of a travel specialist may seem like a risky and costly preposition. After all, with a proliferation of savvy travel apps and booking sites that make snapping up bargain rates a cinch, it's hard to see the added value of professional help. But the truth is, a knowledgeable adviser can deliver much more than insider intel and itinerary recommendations. With connections in remote corners across the globe and an incentive to offer superlative experiences every step of the way, a well-networked adviser can snatch up special rates and minimize headaches should an unexpected medical- or weather-related dilemma threaten to spoil your trip.
And that's just the start. For further proof that working with an adviser is a smart idea, we spoke with experts about why even proactive vacation-planners should solicit professional advice to maximize value and enjoy smoother, stress-free travel.
A Travel Adviser Is an Advocate
"Travel advisers provide advice, access, advocacy and accountability – a combination that's nearly impossible to replicate online," says Terrie Hansen, Virtuoso's senior vice president of marketing. Instead of leaving travel plans to chance should something go awry, "a true travel adviser will help their clients regroup, sort through the options and get them on another path, ensuring they don't waste time on hold when they could be out enjoying themselves," she adds.
And let's be honest: Travel setbacks aren't out of the ordinary. Inclement weather, flight cancellations and health-related issues are known to crop up when traveling, which is why it's helpful to have an adviser watching out for you, says Catherine Heald, co-founder and CEO of Remote Lands Inc., a private tour operator that specializes in organizing customized trips in Asia. Advisers are big troubleshooters and fixers, she explains, pointing out that the more off-the-grid the itinerary, the more you need an expert adviser who can help navigate logistics and other issues such as language barriers. "Having somebody who's looking after your entire trip can save you a huge amount of headache and heartache," she says.
"Travel agents have a network of connections to draw on and deliver influence to you at any time. We negotiate and advocate on your behalf. Because of this leverage we are likely to get a better deal and have clout if anything goes wrong," says Travel Leaders agent Michelle Weller.
Apart from being available in the event of an emergency, trusted advisers also monitor details such as current weather conditions and possible strikes in the area to help protect clients, says Jay Johnson, president of Coastline Travel Advisors. And if the adviser issued your plane ticket, oftentimes, he or she will take care of rerouting you, so you don't have to stress or scramble, he adds. Another advantage of working with an adviser is peace of mind, he says. "If you are booking a trip, let's say to South Africa, the tour operator we're going to be using is licensed," he says. "Everyone is vetted," he adds, emphasizing that trust is a key benefit of working with a company that's part of a consortium that has established cont acts around the world.
An Adviser Can Secure Low Rates
Some do-it-yourself types might contend that reasonably priced hotel rooms are easy to snag on travel websites and apps. While this is sometimes the case, advisers can grant you even better deals that aren't available to the public, along with extra perks that wouldn't typically be included in your rate.
Advisers Pay Attention to Personal Details and Direct You to Lesser-Known Gems
Advisers offer helpful recommendations to guide you to off-the-beaten-track experiences and places you wouldn't stumble upon on your own, Heald says. Let's say you're interested in art, "If you go to Bhutan, there are so many remote villages that make fantastic textiles," she explains, pointing out that advisers take the time to understand their client's needs and preferences to plan customized itineraries that align with their passions. "We want to learn as much about people as possible," she adds.
Advisers also seek out ways to add personal touches and experiences travelers wouldn't have access to on their own. "One of my favorite aspects of the business is getting to know my clients and planning little surprises for them," says Lindsey Epperly, travel consultant and owner of Epperly Travel, a luxury travel consulting company. "For instance, when a couple walks into their hotel room for their first trip away from their newborn only to find a photo of their baby on the nightstand, that's what turns an ordinary trip into an unforgettable memory," she says.
Advisers Offer Access to Lucrative Perks and Privileges
Advisers have relationships that allow clients to receive added hotel perks at the same rate or lower than you would receive by booking directly, Epperly says. For example, working with an adviser can help you secure benefits such as complimentary breakfasts during your stay at a U.S. hotel or free transportation to and from the airport in Paris, she explains.
And thanks to cultivated relationships and pre-negotiated contracts, clients can benefit from extra-value amenities such as complimentary upgrades, spa services and transfers to and from hotels, which can translate to hundreds of dollars in savings, says Suzanne Aaronson, chief marketing officer of ALTOUR.
You Can Still Be a Part of the Vacation-Planning Process
For travelers who want to be engaged throughout the vacation-planning stages, working with an adviser can be a collaborative process. In fact, advisers recognize the challenge of converting DIY travelers, Hansen says. "Travel is one of the few things where you can get as much pleasure out of the planning process as you do from the actual trip itself. But there is also the stress of worrying about making the wrong choice and, despite the avalanche of reviews, separating what's hype from what's real and true," she adds. Once you are matched with the right adviser, the vacation-planning process is "fun, personal, efficient and made stronger by their combined knowledge, research and contacts," she says.
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