I get it, you can just about book everything online yourself now.
This is Jane. She is trekking her way to Everest Base Camp, she left Australia last Thursday, do you remember the world last Thursday (11 March 2020)? People could still freely fly to/from Australia, there was no quarantine, no sparkling-isolation just the Coronavirus surreptitiously making its way around Europe.
On Saturday, along with a small group, they headed off. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, things were beginning to change. Fast.
Thursday this week (18 March 2020) I got a message through to Jane that, as her travel agent, I strongly suggest she abort her trip and return home. She was shocked, and quite rightly so, remember the world was still the same to her when she left it 5 days earlier, she messaged me saying,
Everyone other than a friend and my (adult) children seem to have gone into a panic, we are having a great time, the meals are wonderful and not many people trekking. I don’t feel the need to cut my trip short and would like to continue.
I understood completely. Jane is a strong, independent, capable woman. From her perspective the world was just panicking, she knew this from the ridiculous toilet roll hoarding that had started before she left.
But, as her travel agent, I had to make the hardest call and tell her, no, she must return.
She was just a day and a half from the summit point, but she decided to trust me and do as I suggested. She spoke with the tour guide, he respected her decision, but it was going to take her four days to hike back down again. They came up with a compromise to continue on to the Everest Base Camp and charter a helicopter out so she could return to Kathmandu – that was an expensive option, but there was very little choice.
I made arrangements to change her flights and all was organised for flights home Monday.
At 11.30pm Friday night, Jane messaged me, the Nepalese PM had just announced they were closing the borders midnight Sunday. There would be no flights in or out of the country after then.
Who do you call at 11.30 at night when you are desperate and in a foreign, albeit it beautiful, country?
Who do you call? Who is even going to be awake?
Imagine if she had booked her trip online herself? Who would help her? How long could she afford to be on-hold?
Lucky for Jane she didn’t book online she booked through me, a travel agent, someone who cares about her, and knows to only recommend a reputable tour operator.
Jane put the call out for help at 11.30pm, from her location just 5 hours from the Everest Base Camp, by midnight her tour guide organised a helicopter the very next day and I had organised flights home before the borders closed.
This time her message came back saying,
Thank-you so much . . . I just want to cry!! And it is minus 14 degrees.
Who else is going to tell her at midnight on a Friday night to hold off with the emotions? That icy tears and a runny nose at that temperature is not going to look good! Yep, you’ve got it . . . her trusty travel agent!!!
Jane’s trip back to Australia has a similarity to the Indiana Jones scene when Jones is running down a tunnel with a huge round boulder tumbling behind him. Not only did Jane get out of Nepal two hours before the airport closed, her stop-over in Singapore saw her get out of there with just an hour to spare before that airport too, closed to all passengers transitting through.
That’s one example why you should consider using a travel agent. Now I know something like the Coronavirus is a bit extreme, but other things can and do go wrong when you are travelling. Who would you call?
Still not sold on the idea, nothing like that is going to happen to you.
I know, you can buy tours, hotel rooms, flights, insurance online, I also know it takes a lot of research especially if you are planning on travelling to a destination you’ve never been to before.
Maybe consider engaging the professional services of a travel agent and allow them to do the research for you, the chances are they’ve got experience and knowledge of the destination you’re interested in. Tell them your budget and what is important to you.
If you do find a tour online, ask a travel agent to book it for you, it’s the same cost to you and they can then organise the flights, insurance, transfers to make it into one simple package.
For a travel agent there is nothing more satisfying than putting together a great holiday or adventure that they know clients will love.
You could be helping that travel agent who is maybe just like you, running their own small business, paying off a mortgage, raising a family with kids in the same school as yours. They are in your community, spending money there, trying to make a living, just like you.
It’s often said that travel is one of the best ways to distribute wealth around the world and it can start in your own suburb.
Why not consider engaging a travel agent next time you want to travel? Here at ICON Adventures, in addition to running our own tours we offer a full travel agency service.