There couldn’t be a worse time to travel, so why on earth would I start a travel agency? Isn’t it obvious?
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Haven’t You Heard There’s a Global Pandemic?
There is absolutely a global pandemic crippling travel right now, not entirely, but dramatically. It’s not exactly the environment where everyone is thinking about going back out into the world, most are looking to avoid it. Travel restrictions, especially those on Americans, have put the world out of reach for many even if they feel comfortable traveling right now.
I’m well aware.
Opportunity Presented Itself
A couple of agents I knew were looking for a change. They wanted an agency that better reflected the luxury trips they wanted to take and enjoyed booking.
Most of the readers of this site will be able to understand. The agents book hotel stays for their clients at properties I prefer myself. Hotels like The Park Hyatt Sanya Sunny Bay, The Waldorf-Astoria Bangkok, and The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman embody the experience that the agents booked for their clients, and I could relate.
Further, for a rare moment in history, there was a chance to start with experienced agents and a clean canvas. Doug Parker of American Airlines said that American is using this unique time to rebuild the airline from scratch; to add back just what they want and discard what they don’t. Everything in travel has been reset to zero, so in many ways, there’s never been a better time to start.
What Makes My Travel Agency Different
I loathed travel agencies before I began this work. Why? They were all the same. Travel advice from the largely untraveled. Would you eat at a restaurant where the chef hadn’t tried the food?
Many agents have run the normal US travel agency circuit. A trip to Cancun, an all-inclusive somewhere in the Caribbean, a guided tour through Italy – these are the travel resumes of many agents I have encountered. That was never for me and we built an agency where that’s not the case. The first example is one that every reader on this site should cheer on.
Miles/Points Are Welcome
We want you to earn miles, and we want you to burn them. That’s the advice we have always given on this site and we follow it ourselves. We will search for award space and cash options to let you know which one makes more sense, or help you book them in a way that ensures everyone in your party is together. There aren’t many other agencies (outside of American Express using Membership Rewards points) that are pleased to help clients book with miles and points. If it’s something even we can’t book, we can always enlist Matthew’s Award Expert service for the (near) impossible-to-book mileage redemption trips.
We get to know our clients. It’s not just “window or aisle” it’s that they love New York City, but aren’t interested in Broadway shows. They will stand in line for the perfect bagel, but not for the empire state building. The more we get to know our clients, the more meaningful guidance we can offer. It’s not just which cruise line they prefer, it’s knowing that the one they took last didn’t meet certain expectations and there is a better option available.
Travel Concierges, Not Agents
We don’t have travel agents, we have Travel Concierges. That’s not lip service. If our clients are in Rome for four days and decide halfway through their trip that they would like a change of pace, our Concierges might offer options to take a train to Florence for the day. That may mean we supply our clients with train times, secure the tickets and entry to see the David, along with a recommendation for dinner or a cooking class.
Our staff has some impressive credentials:
- 4.2 – Average number of continents visited
- 26 – Average number of countries visited
- 3.5 – Average number of continents lived on
- All staff is bilingual (English, Spanish, Italian)
If a client heads to Paris, we will, of course, let them know about booking Eiffel Tower tickets online in advance (instead of waiting in the lines) and offer to do it for them, but also highlight a can’t-miss Crepe stall across the Trocadero. If we know our client is an avid reader, we might let them know the best times to visit Les Deux Magots or La Closerie des Lilas where Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Camus, and Baldwin penned their seminal novels.
It’s also easier to reach our staff (due to our technology) and you won’t have to wait all day for the office to open when you’re across the world, just text your concierge.
Most importantly, our technology is far superior to any other agency we have found. Why is this important? Let me show you, here’s a sample itinerary:
Our client receives their proposals on the web, in an app or PDF attachment. For those that haven’t tried other agencies, this is not what most of them are sending customers. We utilize an app that allows those on your trip to chat with each other, discuss details, or even reach out to your concierge. Changes to your trip including up-to-the-minute flight details are adjusted in the app as you progress through your journey. Past trips are also available, especially important for our business clientele.
Most agencies use legacy technology that’s neither intuitive nor helpful – I’ve seen what everyone else is using, ours is better.
Focused on Where You Can Go, Not Where You Can’t
During this crazy year, it’s important to focus on what’s possible, not what’s impossible. When Croatia promoted the openness of its borders to Americans and others, one of our Concierges was there. She took the tests, went through the process, and has a firsthand account of what traveling is like right now. Scott & Thomas follows the changes in regulations, permissions, and access to ensure our clients are never caught off guard on a trip.
There are plenty of places telling travelers where they aren’t welcome right now. We focus on helping clients go where they are welcome.
It’s in many ways both the worst and the best time to start a travel agency. We utilize personal travel experience, industry expertise, and the latest technology to build crafted travel experiences that perfectly fit our client needs and desires. But it’s also a difficult time to start any business, let alone a travel agency. If you want see where you can go right now despite COVID-19 restrictions (the world isn’t entirely closed) or see what we can do to personalize your trip – reach out.
Where are you planning to go next? Have you used a travel agent before? Why or why not?