"You saved our family trip.” – WWTA Client
If you had travel plans in 2020, you’ve probably endured the stomach-wrenching ordeal of having a trip cancelled. Maybe more than once. You might have been shocked to discover that you couldn’t get a refund. Or that your travel insurance didn’t cover pandemics(!)
Maybe you were offered a future travel voucher that you couldn’t use. You may have been one of the unlucky travelers who booked through Bookit.com – which went out of business, leaving customers who’d prepaid for travel scrambling to get their money back. Or a customer who waited on hold with a Costco call center for 12 hours.
Which begs the question, why would anyone need a travel advisor these days? After all, you can do your own research, save money and find online sources for just about any travel service…. right?
The real question is, why wouldn’t you use a travel advisor?
Because the truth is that a top-notch travel advisor, one who’s affiliated with a world-class consortium like Virtuoso, will save you money, time, and lots of potential heartache. Backed by a stellar network of vetted suppliers and vendors, she has the know-how to find the services that fit you best and the resources to negotiate extra value and amenities.
You’ll have the benefit of a seasoned expert who can sort through the noise and clutter of what’s advertised online vs. reality. And you’ll have someone to troubleshoot any speedbumps along the way.
1. Travel advisors save you money.
We’ll let you in on a little secret.
Travel vendors – hotels, cruise lines, tour companies, services – often provide lower, negotiated rates or amenities for luxury travel advisors to offer their clients. It makes sense. They want the repeat business and loyalty of someone who’s going to promote them and drive repeat bookings to their brand.
A 2016 study by ASTA (The American Society of Travel Agents) found that travel agents saved consumers an average of $452 per trip, not counting the hours saved in planning, booking, and troubleshooting.
Best of all, simply finding and booking a travel service through a knowledgeable advisor often costs you nothing. Even for highly-customized itineraries, clients usually find that advisor planning fees provide value that far outweighs the cost.
Last summer, we found international flights that were $1000 less than published rates. For another recent quote, we were able to put our partnerships to work to provide almost $3000 in savings and added value for a family for two rooms at a Maui resort. If necessary, we’ll book at the same rate as booking direct – but add amenities and extras when we can.
We recently booked a couple at a California beach resort for three nights. We were able to secure exclusive lower rates on their room, plus they received an upgrade, $80 a day in breakfast credits, $100 food and beverage credit, and an amenity valued at $50. Total value added? Over $700.
Travel advisors can’t always offer a lower rate than you’d find by booking yourself. But at the very least we will save you time and potentially spare you costly mistakes. Ask yourself – what’s your time worth to you?
2. Extras, amenities, and upgrades.
Another little-known fact – even if you just want to make a simple booking, a travel advisor who’s backed by a prestigious network like Virtuoso, can book a partner property or a service for you and add amenities and value you can’t get on your own.
We’ve had the conversation with friends many times. They booked a resort or cruise online because they knew what they wanted and “didn’t want to bother” us. What our friends didn’t realize was that we could have provided them hundreds of dollars in extra value and maybe an insider rate. For no extra charge.
According to a 2020 Forbes article, when booking with a Virtuoso travel advisor, “just the hotel benefits are valued at an average of over $500 per stay.”
When you book one of our preferred hotels or resorts through us, you typically receive perks like early check-in/late check-out if available, free breakfast for two, $100 resort or spa credit, and an upgrade on arrival.
On certain cruise lines, our clients receive an exclusive benefit of up to $400 in onboard credit plus other perks. Our Virtuoso Voyages give our clients a welcome reception, credit for excursions, and other extras.
Simply put, travel advisors often access insider deals and promos that you can’t find online or by booking directly.
3. Troubleshooting problems and emergencies.
Oh boy. 2020. Say no more.
Nobody said we had great timing. We started our business in 2019, wildly enthused by an avalanche of initial bookings.
We spent most of 2020 – and much of 2021 - in what we now call travel boot camp, working impossibly long hours and tackling the steep learning curve of cancelled trips, rebookings, and ever-changing domestic and international COVID policies.
If there’s a bright side, all of our clients have emphasized how grateful they are that they’d booked through us. We’ve gone to bat for refunds. We’ve guided clients through the strategy of waiting until cruise lines cancelled – so they’d get the maximum cruise credit or refund. We’ve ushered clients through complex COVID protocols, testing requirements, and labyrinthine bureaucratic hoops.
Think you know the COVID testing requirements for Maui or inter-island travel in Hawaii? The correct insurance required for Turks and Caicos? These mandates may have changed since yesterday. We stay on top of the ever-changing and maddeningly complicated protocols and mandates in each jurisdiction so that our clients have the up-to-date resources and information they need.
4. Sorting through the noise and clutter of online offerings.
Ever Google “cliffside Positano hotels” and later find out that that deal you booked isn’t really in Positano and your room is facing an alley populated with stray cats? Another insider secret: reviews on major travel platforms aren’t always reliable. They can be compromised by advertising, paid promos, and rewards. What’s more, when you book through an online discounted travel platform, you’re getting the leftover rooms or cabins.
As the client of a well-connected agency, you’ll receive priority treatment by the property or cruise line. Good travel advisors know which highly-touted beach resorts actually have seaweed infestations or limited beach access. They know which five-star all-inclusives serve sub-par food. At Departure Lounge and the Virtuoso network, we enjoy the benefit of the collective knowledge of thousands of top agents worldwide who have their clients’ best interests at heart.
5. Personalized, customized services.
If you book through any online source, or directly with a hotel or cruise line, you’re dealing with a database or a representative at a call center. Chances are, you’ll never speak to that same person again. If you need to change or cancel, prepare for long waits on hold. Or the infamous chat box that goes nowhere.
Travel advisors serve as your advocate. We get to know your specific interests, likes and dislikes, food allergies, preferences and quirks. We are intimately vested in your travel experience – we take it personally. We’ll recommend restaurants that fit your tastes and budget, accommodations that align with your preferences, experiences that we know you’ll treasure for a lifetime.
It means the world to get be a part of the joyful milestones of our clients’ lives – honeymoons, anniversaries, multi-generational trips. Just a few months ago, we had the privilege of planning one couple’s first anniversary trip, after designing their honeymoon in the midst of COVID shutdowns last year.
Relationships matter to us. After all, travel is personal – it’s an investment in life-changing experiences and the people who share them with you.
6. Insider knowledge you can’t get on your own.
If we haven’t personally done the truffle-hunting with Armando, we know a colleague who has. If you’re looking for a private villa rental for a multi-generational trip to Costa Rica, we have access to a carefully-vetted portfolio of options that suit different budgets. We have partnerships with local guides and reliable destination companies that provide authentic experiences. We know the European hotel where the towels are too thin, the service is iffy, which side of the cruise ship provides the better view (and what cabin to avoid due to the noise from the late-night venue below).
7. Stress-free travel.
Travel isn’t supposed to be work. Why spend hours researching when your travel advisor already has a wealth of knowledge, resources, and insider deals? You’ll wind up spending more, getting less, and stressing about the details. Let your travel advisor work so you don’t have to.
WWTA is privileged to be a part of a caring community of professionals – who genuinely put their clients’ interests first – small business owners who sacrifice weekends to navigate emotional situations where clients are stranded by a hurricane, waylaid by an unexpected accident, or overwhelmed by COVID protocols or canceled flights. Professionals who work tirelessly to research and propose the perfect option for a honeymoon or multi-generational trip, who persuade a vendor to combine promos and provide clients with an amazing insider deal, who work overtime to take care of every detail and concern.
Travel is coming back with a vengeance, and in these uncertain times the expertise offered by travel advisors is more in demand than ever. Let us extend an invitation: give a trusted travel advisor the opportunity to interact about your hopes and dreams for an upcoming vacation. We truly value the privilege of putting our network of connections and partners to work to provide value, amenities, and unparalleled customization to your upcoming trip.
It’s a wonderful world. Now, let’s get out in it!