ASK THE EXPERT: You Need a Travel Agent
Ask the Expert
Do I Need a Travel Agent and Why?
By: Jennifer Doncsecz. CTIE
Owner VIP Vacations, Inc.
I can remember logging on to my old PC and using dial up and getting email on Prodigy. Does anyone remember Prodigy? It would take forever for pictures to load and forget even watching a video online. My goodness have things changed. With the ease of finding information in a blink of an eye, there is also the feeling of being able to research and price vacations, hotel rooms, and airfare like a professional. I am actually glad that I no longer have clients blown away by prices because many now look things up on their own and already realize what the rates are. However, with this ease and convenience comes a “false” sense of security that planning a vacation, honeymoon, or even a destination wedding, can be handled properly without any help. I say “False” because making a reservation or doing research “does not an expert make”.
I have often talked about the book “The Outliers” with colleagues. This book details highly successful people (athletes, attorneys, inventors and musicians) and focuses on whether LUCK, hard work, family support, or education had an impact on their achievements. One thing they found in all of their research was that in every single example, one thing became quite evident, and that was that each person had at least 10,000 hours experience before they gained fame, became an expert or earned their accolades. 10,000 hours! If I break that down, that is 5 years of focusing on a skill. Now, most would agree that during the 40 hour work week it is not possible to specifically and deliberately focus on one thing. So, I would estimate that 10,000 hours of practicing and trying to strive for improvement would take at least 10 years, if not more. Why am I bringing up the 10,000 hour point? Well, how many hours have you spent looking at rates or purchasing an airline ticket?
Most travel professionals list the years they have in the industry or how many times they have been to a resort as part of their explanation of why you should use them. Travel Agents don’t have a CPA, PHD or MBA type designation in travel, so stating how many years one has been working as a travel agent seems to be the only standard that so many rely on. That is a reasonable “starting point” in finding the right person to help you plan your wedding. I guess you could put faith in someone that has years of being in that particular profession, but you should also look a little closer at what their focus has been over the years, their testimonials and the company they work for. Do they focus on Disney, cruises, or Europe? It is nice to be a “Jack of all trades”, but when you are dealing with your most precious wedding, I would think you want more from your agent than just years of experience as a travel agent. Here are some things to look for in your quest to find the right person to help you plan your destination wedding:
1-How long has your agent been dealing specifically with destination weddings? (It is a big world and just because you sell travel, doesn’t mean that you have honed your skills, have a specific niche and have developed an expertise with 1 particular genre – destination weddings!) You want someone who knows the ins and outs of planning a destination wedding. What have clients said about this agent? What have they said about the agency overall? Do they have specific testimonials related to destination weddings?
2-Have they been to this destination/resort. This is a nice thing to ask, however just going to a resort doesn’t mean they know how that resort handles weddings. I have been to dozens of baseball games, but couldn’t tell you which row/seat is right behind home plate or when is the right time for a bunt or hit and run. I just didn’t focus on that when I was there and didn’t focus on developing any particular expertise. A better question would be to ask your agent if they “ever planned a wedding at this resort or even attended a wedding at this resort”. Have they worked with the wedding coordinator from that resort and what have other brides said their experience was like?
3- Does this resort know your agent? My agency, VIP Vacations, has preferred resorts for a reason. We know these specific properties inside and out, assessed their ability to conduct weddings wonderfully and have developed relationships with the key resort personnel. With all of this work, our preferred resorts also know us and know what we require and expect for our clients. They respect us and they treat our clients like VIP’s. We have won industry awards with specific resorts and our brand (VIP Vacations) speaks volumes when our clients check-in. That reassurance alone takes a lot of stress off of the bride/groom.
4-Personal Experience. Do you remember meeting someone and having so much in common that you instantly click? If you understand their perspective, and relate to them from your own experience, a bond can form and trust builds. I feel this is key in planning destination weddings. As you can see from my blogs, I am a destination wedding bride. I know the stress, the anguish and the joy of everything that goes into planning this event.
5 – Foreign Weddings can be Tricky. Has the agent and agency developed specific knowledge on the laws, rules and regulations for the particular country or countries you are considering getting married in? VIP Vacations understands all of these requirements for each country where we have a preferred destination wedding resort. Could you imagine planning everything on your own, meeting your friends and family at the resort, only to learn that you didn’t spend the required amount of time on the island prior to your wedding day to make the ceremony legal? What if you brought all required paperwork, only to learn when you arrived that you needed everything translated into Spanish or another language? These things can happen if you don’t work with someone who is familiar with all requirements.
6-Organization. The expression “the devil is in the details” applies very well to destination weddings. There should be a detailed process that is explained to a couple when they are looking for a destination wedding agent. If your agent can’t detail the timeline, doesn’t update you on your guest list, doesn’t have the details of wedding options and can’t talk to you about the type of paperwork you will be receiving, then you need to move on. Being organized is one of the most important things to look for. Ask your agent “what should I expect to happen next”. Knowing what is around the bend also takes the stress and worry out of the equation. Groups, especially large ones, require systems and processes in place to ensure that payments are made, guests are booked into their desired accommodations and proper documents are provided correctly and on time.
At the end of the day, destination weddings aren’t just a vacation you put together on a whim. Turning to an expert can save you time, money and aggravation!