Are Tour Operators A Thing Of The Past?

 

This topic has been circulating around many social media forums and one that I felt compelled to express my views on; and what better way to do that than on a blog. Well, as many of you know, Bahamas Flavour was a tour operator, selling packaged holidays to The Islands of The Bahamas and trading in the UK market for 11 years. However, our decision to cease trading at the end of 2017 was attributed to many factors.

There is no denying that the average traveller is very savvy when it comes to booking their holiday. With the increased availability of cheap flights and accommodation booking engines, planning that much longed for holiday is becoming easier and more efficient with a click of a button; but at what cost? Yes, you can book your flights, accommodation and transfers and probably save a few pounds doing it yourself as opposed to through a third party (tour operator) but are you covered in the event of cancelled flights, inadequate accommodation or you have unfortunately been a victim of a holiday scam? Travel insurance does not cover you for these mishaps! This is where the ATOL protection comes into play. ATOL protects you when you book a holiday with a UK travel company. It ensures that you don’t lose the money you paid out or become stranded abroad if your travel company collapses. If an ATOL protected travel company ceases trading, the scheme protects customers who have booked holidays with this company. With that said, is it more important that you save a few pounds when booking your holiday than risk loosing an entire holiday as a result of unexpected delays or cancellations?

The tour operator has formed special relationships with destination suppliers, being able to negotiate special offers, discounted tour/excursions or upgrades, is something operators approve on a daily basis. This is a result of the continued partnerships tour operators establish with suppliers to ensure a comfortable and attractive holiday package for their consumers. Unfortunately such perks are far and few when booking direct. I recall many occasions calling managers at hotels I offered on my programme, requesting a bottle of champagne or candlelight dinners on arrival; or a special themed room for a birthday guest. This was a norm and one that encouraged repeat visits. It was fortunate that The Bahamas being a multiple destination encouraged many repeat visits. As I often reminded my clients, no two islands in the Bahamas are the same! You can be assured of a different holiday experience in each of our islands.

One of the many reasons I decided to become a specialist tour operator to The Bahamas was because it is a destination I am very passionate about. Not only am I a Bahamian, I have also travelled extensively throughout the world, including the islands of The Bahamas on holiday, but also in my profession. This allowed me the opportunity to experience the destination through the eyes of a consumer and also a retailer. There is no doubt that in order to effectively sell a destination you must also experience it. Which brings me to another point; how important is it for you to have adequate knowledge or interest in a destination before booking it? I am sure many of you will agree that some of the most sought after destinations are those that rank highly on trip advisor or social media. This is where the specialist knowledge of a tour operator is important in the consumers final decision. The ability to speak from first hand experience about the accommodations on offer, tour/excursions and what to see and do in the destination is vital in capturing that booking. There is something final and reassuring when sold to you by an specialist operator who has experienced the destination as opposed to reading it from a book or online. The tour operator can put together an itinerary suitable for your needs; such as the best places to dine, the most exciting tours, most romantic spots, best getaways for families and the list goes on. From the moment you depart for your destination to the time you return, your holiday is in the hands of your operator.

A large part of your travel experience is knowing that your holiday is secured. That your experience in that destination is one that you were anticipating and would thoroughly enjoy. That everything that you booked is taken care of from start to finish. The details of reorganising flights in the event of delays, last minute transfers, room changes or an unexpected addition to your party. These are the responsibilities of your tour operator. Their ability to ensure adequate changes are made effectively and efficiently when you haven’t a clue! That last minute call to ‘Susan’ the hotel manager with regards to a courtesy room upgrade or ‘Patrick’ the head chef to make that last minute birthday cake are all a reassurance of the best possible holiday experience that your operator provides.

 

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