Most travelers come to me because they are confused by the destination they are planning to visit, whether it be French Polynesia, Australia, or any other location. Today you can receive hundreds, thousands, or possibly millions of opinions on a location. I want to be clear that each “Post” including my own is nothing but opinions. So the confusion comes from whose opinion do you believe or use as guidance, and this is where I come in for my clients. My opinion or guidance is based on over thirty years of traveling to the destinations of the South Pacific.
Looking at the opinions on Social Media is confusing because you have no basis of trust to “believe” the opinion is right for you. When potential clients come to me, it is to speak with me to see whether I can be trusted to help them create the best trip possible, based on my knowledge and contacts in the region. I want to have solid trust between my clients and myself. Any question can be asked and I will answer it. I just recently had potential clients send me questions so that they could decide if I was the travel specialist for them. Here they are:
1.)What is your fee structure (how are you compensated in the process of planning vacation packages)? Do you receive a commission from certain hotels/restaurants etc?
Here was my answer:
I have two fees
- Plan to Travel Fee
- The document processing fee.
- Other than that there are no other fees.
Compensation: I do not book itineraries through a wholesaler here in the US as many agencies do where they earn a commission from the wholesalers. I book directly to the destination for which we are planning. I negotiate wholesale rates like American Express does and have access to all the specials and deals. The differences between The Art of Travel and American Express are that 1.) my overhead is way below that of American Express and I pass these savings on to my clients; 2.) I have complete control over my clients’ itineraries and not working through a middle person that may or may not know the destination; 3.) My one-on-one interaction with each client ensures an itinerary that is true to each traveler and that there is no delay in answers and guidance.
The pricing I send to you is a total cost with the cost of your travel and my commission. As a result, my pricing is usually better than most agencies. In addition, because I focus on the South Pacific Islands, Australia, and New Zealand I have access to added amenities because of my volume with the hotels.
Why did I go separately and book directly to the islands? It became clear to me from my almost 40 years of traveling to the islands, Australia and New Zealand that I knew more about these locations, islands, etc. than any of the reservation agents did. I meet agents all the time that book Tahiti once or twice a year and only know the basics. Because I have a long history of traveling to the South Pacific, my contacts run deep and are extensive. I know what is under each overwater bungalow, each view, and anything else you may wish to know about the resorts, islands (location of a beach), and nation. I would rather be a specialist for a limited part of the world that just knows a bit about the whole world. I could sell the world very well as I sailed around it for 11 ½ years, but I am much happier to be specialized and do a great job for each of my clients.
One more note: I cannot beat online booking sites. I do not wish to compete with online booking engines as they do not offer the knowledge of a destination, the customer service, and the after-booking support that I do.
2.) What are the top 3 or so reasons why we should work with your company as opposed to other options (travel agencies, Costco etc)? (Keeping in mind we appreciate good value for the overall cost, e.g. working within a budget but still having a great experience.)
Here is my answer:
- Personalized attention to your requirements and great customer service. I see the honeymoon travel or travel planning process as a puzzle. I do not see it as a transaction. I love puzzles, and what I find in each new client is that they see their trip from a unique point of view—or, to put it another away their own puzzle. By listening during the initial conversations with clients and asking questions that give me information, I can see or understand the pieces to the puzzle of a perfect trip for each client: which hotel, experience, or island will work the best (puzzle pieces), budget (puzzle pieces), and length of time (yep, puzzle pieces). The other piece is availability. The process of taking these pieces and creating an itinerary for the client that matches their goals, desires, and likes is putting together a great puzzle! For me, that is the fun part. Every new client creates a new puzzle. That is why I custom design every itinerary for every client. Each one is unique. I take the time, to really get a bead of what you, the traveler, singly and/or as a couple, are looking for in this particular trip. I believe that you wish to work with an adviser rather than a person that just books the trip for you. Once I have a good idea of what you are looking for I will create and initial itinerary for you and send it over to you along with copious notes of why I am suggesting the itinerary for you in this way. Once you review the itinerary, then we will speak about what you liked about the itinerary, maybe what you didn’t like, and certainly answer all of your questions. I then take my added knowledge regarding your likes and dislikes and adjust the itinerary. We go back and forth like this until we have the itinerary the way you wish it. It does not matter how many times we do this as we have to get it right. In the end, you have an itinerary that is in budget, you know what you are getting and will be exceeding, but also, you will be having an itinerary as if you had booked it on your own but you just happened to use an advisor. I have refined this process over years with interactions with clients. It is very successful. It is why, I believe, I have been on Conde’ Nast Traveler magazine’s list of the Top Travel Specialists in the World for French Polynesia, the Cook Islands and the South Pacific Islands.
- I am not mass market, I am focused on a genuine interaction between clients and myself. You will always speak to me as I am the only one in my company. Your experience is what is most important. Because if you feel that you have had the best trip possible for a great value, then you will return home and tell all your family and friends what a great job I did. This, in my view, is the best marketing that can be had: A very happy client and referrals. The time and energy I put into each reservation Costco cannot do nor can most other agents. I work for myself and follow my rules and philosophy. I grew up in a small town in Illinois where I watched my parents build business relationships with the folk in the town. My dad had his own banker, his own car mechanic and his special pharmacist. My mom had her own dentist, hair stylist, and we always went to the restaurants where we were friends with the owners. That is the kind of business I wish to be. I want to be your travel specialist to the part of the world that I specialize in for life, not just one transaction.
- Your travel will be unique: I do not sell cookie cutter trips. I have no pre-planned itineraries to fit you into. Each itinerary I create is unique to the person and persons traveling. How do I make it unique? Because of my connections I know all the unique activities, locations and restaurants that accent a trip. For example, a good friend of mine is Chef Damien of the Villa Mahana fame on Bora Bora. He now has a new location atop of a hill near Matira Beach, that has 360 degree views of Bora Bora lagoon. It is an amazing place for lunch, family style. There are two of us in the US that can reserve either of Chef Damien’s locations. French Polynesia, and the other islands of the South Pacific are like my small town that I grew up in. I have built relationships deeply into the land and that leads to a very unique experience. An experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
3.) What is your overall philosophy about travel?
Here is my answer: Travel, in my view, should be an experience not just something you “do.” It should be a theatrical event where each location builds your anticipation for the next location and experience. There should be no doubt about how good it is for you and your style and budget. There should be only great surprises. I build trust with my clients in budget and in questions. I request that any question you have please ask it no matter if you think it silly. It is not. The answer builds our bond, allows you to be a part of the planning process, and I learn much-needed information about what you wish and what you do not. Budget is a very personal thing. We must speak about it and I request that we never go outside of our comfort zone. There may be a location, accommodation, or experience that may work for you but may be out of the budget. I will let you know what that option is, but you decide if you wish to do it. That is how we build trust to create the best trip ever. That is what I find most important and what I do one trip at a time.
The way that I work clears any confusion and builds a bond, I hope, for the rest of The Art of Travel’s existence. It is working as 40% of trips planned through The Art of Travel are past clients.
To my present clients, thank you for your patronage and your loyalty. To my new clients, welcome! Let’s have some fun and build a bond for years to come!