Recently I got a call from a client that was interested in a mass market ocean cruise. She had the supplier, dates and ship all picked out. I had previously introduced this client to river cruising via AmaWaterways. She asked what the benefits of booking through a travel agent for an ocean cruise. The cruise line advertised quite a bit and she didn’t think she needed much help from a travel professional. So I thought this would make a good posting since many of you probably have the same question. so here’s how I responded:
Once I tracked down the specific sailing, I realized that I could offer the same price as she was getting directly with the cruise line, but was able to offer additional on board credit. So right away, her phone call to me saved her $250! So how could I offer this? Since I do all my bookings with Avoya Travel, I have access to their rates and in this case they had negotiated this added amenity for this cruise. Happens all the time. But customers certainly don’t know about these if they book direct with the supplier.
The client was going to go with the cruise line insurance. But when I offered her an Allianz policy for less money and better coverage, she realized there was even more savings involved. Plus, she could cover non-cruise costs on the same policy for virtually the same cost. A cruise line is not going to tell you about alternatives to their own insurance.
She had already picked out a specific cabin number and promotion package. But I pointed out to her that for only a few dollars more, she qualified for a much better cabin with added amenities. The cruise lines will try to push certain inventory with their promotions and that’s what she had seen. Since I can see all the promotions at one time, I was able to point her in a better direction. She ended up booking a nicer cabin an got an additional beverage package. I was also able to direct her to the adjoining cabins so she could be close to her friends.
Once we started talking, she realized that she had many other questions. For example, she asked about the cost of certain excursions and if they were a good value. I provided some alternatives to the cruise line which were less money and were more private. She asked about what to do in certain ports. She asked about recommendations about dining venues, when to register. She had found some cheap flights that arrived the day of the cruise. I recommended (and she did ultimately change) that she come in the day before so there would be no chance of missing the cruise because of air travel issues. In fact the more we spoke the more she realized that she really wanted to spend a few days before the cruise in the port city. So I arranged a pre cruise extension at a very nice resort that other clients really liked.
So why call a travel agent?
When we were done, she was very happy she called. She saved money, got a better insurance package, ended up with a much better cabin and amenities, enhanced the trip with a pre-cruise extension, reduced the probability of missing her cruise due to airplane issues and was able to get great service at the same time. Just like in any profession, there are poor, average and excellent travel agents. This is what excellent travel agents do – they provide added value and service for clients. This is just one case study of the value an excellent travel agent can provide.