Today's travellers are savvy - especially when they're investing a substantial amount of money in an intenational vacation. The Internet makes it possible to research, plan and book almost every aspect of your journey, from airline tickets to hotel reservations and car hire. There was a time when it seemed that the role of a travel agent - essentially a personal advisor who helps you plan and book your holiday - was becoming obsolete. So how is it possible that Go2Africa, an online tour operator has grown from strength to strength at precisely the same time as so many travellers were trying to 'do their own thing'?
When do you need a travel agent?
It comes down to two aspects of what we do: first, our service. This includes consultants who are bona fides safari experts - via written examinations and personal travel experience - and a unique 24/7 support service available to our clients every single day of their vacation.The second aspect that sets us apart is our passionate focus on Africa as a destination. We can't show you the world but we can show you Africa better than anyone else precisely because it's all we do.
Making your own vacation arrangements in a destination that is similar to your home city in terms of infrastructure, culture and development makes sense. When your holiday destination isn't complicated, you don't face much risk to either your happiness or your money by booking your travel plans direct with hotels and airlines. But when both your happiness and your pocket are at risk in a complex destination with foreign cultures, unusual logistics and a diverse offering of accommodation, you want an expert on your side.
We've spent two decades working and travelling in remote destinations in Africa, including South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Congo. If we are staying more than a three nights anywhere, we definitely want our accommodation and flight bookings made by an agent - this links the two aspects of our vacation to a single booking reference, which means that any problem beyond our control that affects one aspect, automatically triggers compensation in the other.
Ask anyone who booked their hotel and flights separately and then had a flight delay cost them a night’s accommodation, with no compensation due. When an agent books both your accommodation and airticket, the accommodation has to respond with a refund or an extra night if a problem beyond your control (and not considered an ‘act of God’) affects your flight.
When it comes to going on vacation in a complex destination like Africa, I definitely want an agent’s trusted network of suppliers and Go2Africa's 24/7 back up. A safari is a big investment and I’d rather consult an expert before spending a substantial sum on anything. Africa is an incredible destination - it's home to natural wonders, fascinating cultures and the biggest blue sky over the wildest wilderness. For me, peace of mind is a big part of relaxing on holiday - even if nothing ever goes wrong and all the logisitics run as smoothly as silk, I want to know that I have professional support 24/7 on the ground - not back home in another time zone.
I ask myself how easily I can respond to a major hurdle – like missing a flight. If I don’t feel confident that I can sort out a problem like that quickly on my own, then I’d rather have an agent looking out for me.
In all my travels in Africa in the past 20 years, I’ve only ever needed my agent's back up once but I still choose to work through an agent rather than roll the dice with my hard-earned dollars or risk an unhappy – or unsafe - experience.
How do you choose a great agent?
So you’ve chosen a complex destination for your vacation and you want the benefits of an agent. First, you need to know what an agent actually does: he or she recommends trusted suppliers to you and makes all the arrangements with the suppliers you choose. That sounds a bit basic, so here are five services that define a great agent:
1. Proven expertise through personal travel: Your agent should have been to the places she wants to advise you on. Ideally, she should travel regularly and be able to make recommendations based on actual travel experience, not just repeat what she's read in a brochure. She should have plenty of recent reviews from her clients and ideally, have be rated on an independent travel site like FEEFO.
2. A tried and trusted network of suppliers: She should not sell any old suppliers in a destination because all suppliers (just like all agents) are not equal. Your agent should offer a thoughtfully curated list of specific suppliers that she trusts to meet your expectations.
3. A tailor-made approach: She should ask about your needs and preferences to help refine her recommendations – a great agent tailor-makes vacations and goes the extra mile to make your safari exactly right for you.
4. Best value for a fair price: She should not push you to book a cheap deal – that sort of tactic is about her sales targets, not your vacation. A great agent advises you where to save and where to splurge to get the most out of your travel budget.
5. Back up while you travel: Your agent’s job isn’t done the day you pay. A great agent backs you up 24/7 from the moment you leave your home until you return, safe and happy. This is one of the most important benefits to using an agent when you travel to a complex destination, like Africa, and it's pretty rare.
Today, travellers are well informed and many destinations offer superb tourist infrastructure. It's up to you to decide when to work with a travel agent, and when you don't need one.
In complex destinations like Africa, where working with an agent has important advantages, it’s up to you to make sure you get more than a booking service from your travel agent. You deserve all five of the benefits a great agent can deliver to minimize risk and maximize the moments that will make your safari unforgettable.
Ready for adventure? Start planning your vacation with an Africa Safari Expert.