This is the first post in a series written by our amazing partners over at Bliss Honeymoons, who specialize in planning seriously amazeballs honeymoons and destination weddings for people with even teensy-tinsy budgets.
How does travel pricing really work?
If you’ve spent any time at all trying to plan a trip online, you probably know how confusing travel pricing can be. There are hundreds of websites all claiming to have some special offer or lower price than you can get anywhere else. And there are literally as many myths about travel pricing as there are people selling travel. So today what I would like to do is dispel some of the myths, and give you the scoop on how travel pricing really works.
Myth#1-Using a travel agent means I am going to pay more than I would if I booked it myself:
Fact- While it may be true that some travel agents do charge fees or mark up the prices; for the most part the price you get from your travel agent should be the same as the pricing that you find online on the hotel’s or airline’s site. Agencies also have relationships with preferred suppliers which may give them access to specials and promotions that you may not be able to find on online sites. Just last week we saved a client over $800.00 just by being able to give him a free upgrade certificate we received from a hotel’s sales rep.
Good to know-most hotels guarantee they won’t offer a lower price on their site than an agency is able to secure.
Myth #2: I can get discounts online that I can’t get from an agent:
Fact: Many hotels and cruise lines have a very strict no discounting policy because they want all agencies, both online and offline, to compete on service rather than price. One online giant was recently issued a stop sell by Sandals because they were illegally discounting Sandals’ pricing. So if an agency offers you a price that sounds too good to be true, it may very well be. And the hotel may not honor that deeply discounted price upon arrival, as one couple learned upon check-in for their wedding in St Thomas. They had to cough up over $1200 to cover what they thought was a travel deal they had purchased online. Again special pricing is offered to agencies and suppliers based on relationships, and in some cases, sales volume.
Myth #3-If I shop around, I can get a bunch of agents to compete for my business.
Fact: Your trip has four parts to it-airfare, hotel, transfers and insurance. Your travel agent doesn’t own any of those four companies, or set their pricing. However, your agent should know how to put your package together in a way that offers the most value and the best price.
Good to know-I actually had a guy yell at me once because he called the hotel and got the same price I had given him. The hotel shouldn’t cost more from a travel agent that it does from the hotel. But again, be concerned if it’s significantly less.
Myth #4-You can find everything you need to plan your trip from Trip Advisor and an online site.
Fact: While there is a lot of good info online, there’s also a lot of misinformation online. Online review sites in theory are a great idea. But unfortunately they’ve fall prey to all kinds of abuse; such as favorable reviews written by staff members, to unscrupulous shoppers who didn’t get a discount they thought they deserved. Here’s the thing to remember-no online reviewer is basing their professional reputation on the outcome of your trip. Your local travel consultant is. Who are you going to trust?
Ok, so now that we’ve cleared up the pricing misconceptions, why wouldn’t you use an agent?!
Fact #1: The average couple spends 30 hours doing research for their trip.
That’s like having a part time job! Do you have that kind of time? Probably not! Using an experienced travel consultant can save you a lot of time and stress!
Fact #2: Agents can see red flags that most consumers miss.
Here’s a great example. Last week Bernie had a couple call her about a “great deal” they found online.
This “fantastic” deal would have had the clients staying at 3 different mediocre hotels in a 7-day period! The other thing the “incredible” deal didn’t reveal was that the clients would have to overnight in Rome on the way back from Naples. So that would add another hotel stay, bringing the total hotel number up to 4. Due to the flight schedule they would not arrive home until the day they were supposed to have returned to work. Another “perk” of the package was the rental car that was included. Navigating the cliffside hairpin turns on the Amalfi Coast is not for the faint of heart, especially when one isn’t used to driving a manual transmission car or driving in a foreign country. After realizing there was more to the “fabulous” online deal than she’d anticipated, the client had us take the reins to plan their dream trip. Now they are scheduled on a relaxing trip where they have private transfers, a single 4-star hotel with amazing sea views for the entire time, and sightseeing excursions in which they will not have to do any driving.
So while a “cheap” trip may look like a good idea initially, there are almost always other factors to consider. We’re confident that Gretchen and Bill will return home with many fond memories of the time they got to experience “la dolce vita” for themselves rather than all the time they had to spend checking in and out of hotels for that “great deal” they found online!
Fact 3: A travel consultant’s role is to advise and create a great experience.
There are two different business models in the travel industry-those who sell travel as a commodity based on price, where you do all the research and hope for the best; and those who regard your trip as an investment, and treat it as such. Here at Bliss, our belief has always been that being cheap is easy-anyone can come up with a lower price if they’re willing to spend countless hours doing it. Consistently creating honeymoons and anniversary trips that people are still raving about six months after they get home is much more challenging. We’d rather be known for the latter.