Some road-warriors feel they can plan their own travel more easily themselves than by using a professional travel agent. Others use their agent for more complicated trips such as an adventure trip through Costa Rica or New Zealand or a multi-generational trip to the Galapagos, but then decide to book their own weekend stay in Miami, London, or Chicago or their resort holiday in Cancun, Naples or Beaver Creek. Once in a while, I will hear a loyal client say, “I did not want to bother you for this easy trip.”. Sure a one-stop holiday can be straight forward enough to book on-line with just a few clicks, but are you missing out on a world of value adds and special considerations?
A travel consumer should take into consideration the powerful relationship that their travel advisor has with the best hotels & resorts. A travel advisor worth their weight is most likely on a first name basis with the Sales Manager or the General Manager of the world’s finest hotels and works with them on a regular basis to ensure that her clients are very well cared for. You can rest assured that the hotel is fully aware of the value of the business that your travel advisor sends their way on an annual basis and will always prioritize upgrades and amenities for her clients.
Sure you can book yourself, but you certainly cannot VIP yourself. The relationship your travel agent has with a luxury hotel most often translates into complimentary upgrades, welcome amenities, early & late checkouts, and extra values such as spa or food and beverage credits. An excellent travel consultant not only books her client’s room, but is in touch with the property several times before you actually arrive ensuring that the hotel is aware of your arrival time, your preferences, and special requirements. Even if the hotel does not automatically offer specific value-adds, you can rest assured you are going to be treated a whole lot better on arrival if the booking is coming from your agent.
What can you do to ensure your experience is always elevated?
Make sure your travel advisor knows your arrival time and requested check-out time to and from the property so she can try to get the first available rooms allocated to you and put you on the list for a possible late checkout. Don’t be shy to let your agent know things you both love and those you despise. For example, if you do not drink alcohol and stay away from cheese, but absolutely love healthy amenities such as sparkling waters and fruit be sure your agent knows this so that she can try to tailor the most appropriate welcome amenity for you. If a quiet room and non-allergenic pillow are preferred or if you always want a suite with a door that closes off the bedroom from the living area, these are things a good agent will keep on file and know about you so you do not have to reinvent the wheel each time. Once a rapport is built with your travel agent, she knows you as well as anyone and can ensure those personal touches are always in place before you can even think about them yourself. The most important advice I can give to the traveling consumer is to never ever book your room using a discount website. I know for a fact after working in luxury hotels for 20 years, that that is the sure fire way to be allocated the worst room in the house. Hotels do not have a relationship with the on-line discounters and the hotel’s most loyal clients do not book their rooms that way, so bookings that come through this way receive the least amount of fanfare.
Besides all of the intangibles of working with a luxury travel advisor who knows you personally, there are concrete value adds to consider.
Here is a sample booking scenario
Booking your own room
You book: $500 per night for a Courtyard View Room x 2 nights
You pay: $500 x 2 = $1,000
You receive: Courtyard View Room
Additional Value You Received: 0
Your travel advisor books your room
Your agent books: $500 per night for a Courtyard View x 2 nights
You pay: $500 x 2 = $1,000
Daily Breakfast for two (approximate value $70 per day)
Upgrade to City View Room (approximate value $150 per day)
Food & Beverage or Spa Credit (approximate value $100 once during stay)
Welcome Amenity (approximate value $50)
Additional Value You Receive: $590
I always tell my clients to book the room they want to ensure they will be thrilled with their stay and to avoid disappointment. Never bank on an upgrade, as they are offered only if available at check in and should be considered icing on the cake! Surrender yourself to your professional travel advisor and be prepared to be surprised and delighted during your travels.