When booking a holiday, is it worth going to a specialist travel company? Our research shows it could make you more satisfied with your holiday – is that enough to encourage you to give one a try?
I’ve just come back from a conference where I met lots of independent travel agents and tour operators, many of whom sell amazing holidays for people with a particular destination interest or hobby.
Many were true specialists with incredible knowledge, setting up their business simply because they wanted to share (or have an excuse for) their passion for their interests.
Paying the price for specialist knowledge
These agents and operators are as concerned about the economy as we all are. As they don’t sell in bulk or control the holiday process by owning their own airlines or hotels, they can’t easily discount – and not to the extent that customers often ask them to.
In this world where we are all encouraged to shop around for the best deal, use online vouchers and price comparison websites, and have the expectation that great service should be for everyone regardless of the price you pay, many are finding business very challenging.
Spare a thought for the specialist Africa operator who told me, ‘putting together a detailed holiday itinerary for someone could easily take a week or more. That is a lot of wasted time and money if the customer doesn’t then go on to book with us.’
The research company Mintel tells us that nearly two-thirds of all holidays are booked without the services of a travel agent or tour operator; we simply do things ourselves these days. This figure has grown steadily over the years as more people have access to the internet and faster broadband service.
But as we get better at putting these holidays together ourselves, are we really missing out on something that these specialists could have provided? Our own research at Which? Travel has found that people who used a specialist travel company (one that helped them book transport and accommodation) are more likely to be very satisfied with their holiday compared to those using other travel companies, and they are also more likely to say that they would definitely recommend that company to a friend.
So while our research shows that specialists certainly win out against travel companies in the market generally, can they win out against you as individuals? When is it worth paying the price of a specialist in travel – or would you never consider using one?