There must be a market here for someone to help the holiday maker who books mostly or exclusively through the web. Some sort of travel concierge, who advises on an hourly basis rather than the travel agent who often sells over priced travel and accommodation.
My limited experiences of going to a travel agent suggests that advice isn’t their strong point. Travel agents seem more interested in making a sale from brochures which were printed many months ago. As well as including a good commission for the travel agent and other middlemen these prices are based on an exchange rate far removed from reality.
So why go there? On the other hand the web is a great source to research places and make bookings. But checking out lots of sites to understand location, value, alternatives etc is time consuming. And there’s still something missing. That’s the human touch of providing information that is going to maximise fun and minimise stress.
I’m not talking about a quick domestic flight or a short haul international trip. I’m talking about but the long awaited and saved for family holiday or multi stop journey. The once in a lifetime trip to a number of places that will be remembered for many years. To get the most out of this sort of trip requires more than an hour or two of planning.
I believe that’s where word of mouth or leveraging others’ experience is the answer. For example, many kiwis travelling to Europe use Air New Zealand (a great airline) but that limits you to travelling into and out of London, or Frankfurt code sharing with Lufthansa. Why limit yourself to just these two destinations, or even worse, fly into and out of London (unless of course you were going to spend your whole time in the south of England).
There are a number or airlines that fly from Europe to the southern hemisphere, so a good travel advisor would suggest travelling into one destination e.g. London, and fly home via another e.g. Rome. The Air NZ website helpfully can accommodate multistop itineraries, and most airlines are doing one way prices too. Using different destination and departure points means you can see a lot more without having to double back to your original arrival point.
There’s also a lot of basic travel information that the travel concierge could provide too. Things that Tripadvisor doesn’t go into such as doing a bike or walking tour to get your bearings, have fun and get rid of the jetlag. Limit the use of underground trains as these stop you ‘seeing’ a lot of the city and disorientate you. Think about going to the local food markets, and if you are a member attend a Lions, Rotary, Toastmasters, or Hash House Harriers meeting as an opportunity to meet some locals.
Also you’d be advised of the best deals such as the London Two for One deals rather than the London Pass, and to try to travel early or late in the day to make the most of your time to see and do things.
So package up this practical information. Pass on recommendations of places to stay, things to do, and how long to spend in each location. Provide the itineraries of other travellers and use some technology to help communicate the information, and the concierge is in business. Any takers?