Knowing it all or thinking you do

I appreciate that more and more people feel comfortable to research and book their own travel plans. I have said before that just because I can watch a you tube video on doing my own car oil change that I would attempt to do that myself. There are people that have dedicated their lives to such a job and I will pay for that service.

Most travel professionals that book leisure travel (at least that I know) don’t charge a fee for their services. I am in no way saying we shouldn’t charge a fee, but we do make money from the sale so in the end we are benefiting from the business we earn from the sales.

Recently I have been working with a friend of our family, whose travel experience is very minimal. She has a lot of friends who travel, one in particular who is very well travelled – with lots of opinions. Go here, don’t go there, that’s a good deal, this is what you should be paying. You know the type. We all know the type.

I was very happy that we the clients had decided on their trip and we had two lengthy discussions on travel insurance. What are the concerns for the parties involved, pre-existing conditions, medical questionnaires, etc. We sell Manulife insurance, which is one of the countries main insurance providers for Canadian travellers. Premiums were discussed and even though the costs were high, the customer understood the importance of such insurance. Great. Booking completed, client satisfied.

There are two suppliers Sunwing/Signature and Transat holidays that sell a travel waiver. It is not insurance and should not be sold that way. It is a waiver that states you can cancel up to 3 hour prior to your flight and get a refund. Not your money back, as there  are  ** beside this clause. Depending on when you cancel you would get future travel vouchers back, not money. When you take real insurance if you have to cancel you would get money back. This waiver is $50 or $79 if you want medical included. This price is much less than the price I offered to the client. Her friend was appalled that I would offer her friend such high insurance and didn’t I know about the Sunwing waiver?

Of course I know about the waiver. I asked the woman, if she was aware of the fact that you don’t get money back if you cancel? She had no idea what I was talking about. I know what I am talking about. I told her with certainty that I offered my clients what was best for them. This was their first trip like this and if they had to cancel for a medical reason future travel vouchers wouldn’t work for them, they need to be ensured to get their money back. She continued to ‘school’ me on the ins and outs of the travel industry. I did tell her three times that I have been in the travel industry for over 26 years.

My client, a family friend for my whole life was very embarrassed by the phone call and events of the conversation. I asked her if she was okay with my recommendations and she said she was. I was okay with that. I advised her that I don’t recommend the product that the friend was taking, that it really isn’t in her best interest and she was okay with that.

There is something that I find myself repeating over again in this blog – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Leave it to the professional  to recommend what is best for their clients.

If you have any questions about the travel waivers vs. proper insurance please ask  me and I would be more than happy to assist you.

Buyer beware!




Hearing but not listening to the answers

1922127_424357944333742_548279602_nHow many questions related to your job are you asked on any given day? I know it would depend on your profession. Even if you aren’t working with the ‘public’ per se, you are working with other individuals and come across questions and answers every day.

In my field of travel sales, I am questioned every day about hundreds of different scenarios: where should I go; when is the best time to go there; how can I get the best deal; do I need a passport just to name a few.

There are many times throughout any given day that I am asked to provide a professional opinion, my best options, offers and advice. I would say that more times than not I am questioned about the answers I provide to people looking for help and guidance. They also have a habit of asking the same questions over again if they are hearing the answer they want to hear and refuse to listen to the answer you are giving them. Yesterday was one of those times.

A customer called up and advised she needs an emergency flight for a family member to the Philippines due to a death in the family. The traveller’s passport was only valid for three months past the travel period and would that be okay. When I replied that the passport had to be valid for at least six months past the period of travel, the reply was, “well on the Philippines website it doesn’t say that”. Well, that could be true, which is why you are calling me, which is why I am advising that it needs to be valid for six months.

It didn’t end there. She asked again, if she was able to get proof from the website that all that was required was a valid passport would she be okay and be allowed on the flight. I said the same answer as before, that passports need to be valid for six months past period of travel. She mentioned that she saw on the air Canada website that it says valid passport required but not for how long. I replied that for different countries there are different validity dates.

She asked again, but this time she said, I am calling because I am looking for guidance and an answer to my situation. I did say to her that I understand the urgency of her situation and need to get there as soon as possible but she will need to go to the passport office to get an expedited passport. If she booked the ticket and was denied boarding for insufficient time on her passport, we would not be held responsible.

I think the exchange went back and forth about five times. I politely said to her that even though I know she is looking for me to say that the person travelling would be okay with a passport without the validity that I would not be able to say that.

I will always remember my uncle telling me on my very first day at my very first travel job that I needed to always have a valid passport. He said, “what if your manager told you that you were going to Cuba tomorrow and you said your passport wasn’t valid?” I know that this traveller is not in the travel business, but you never know when you may need to travel and need your valid passport. Six months before my passport is set to expire, I am getting a new one. Thankfully I don’t have to think about it again until July 2024 six months before my current one expires.



What is your best price for….

I have stated many times in this blog that a lot of people feel comfortable shopping on line for many different products and services. I don’t have a problem with that fact. I have also stated that even though you can shop on line for something it doesn’t mean you should.

Case in point a recent caller who was enquiring about a package to Vancouver. She wants to go for two weeks and have flight and hotel to Vancouver. I asked her where she wanted to stay in Vancouver. She replied downtown but I don’t want an expensive hotel. Of course not.

I gave her the price for the airline tickets and she was shocked. It was roughly $900 per ticket for the flight dates she requested. She said, “but I got a price for two people including a Best Western hotel for $2500”. Of course I wanted to know what Best Western hotel location? To which she replied, in Burnaby. To which I replied, well Burnaby is not Vancouver. That is like saying you want to stay in downtown Toronto but I offer you a hotel in Scarborough. Really, was her reply. Yes, really was the answer.

I speak to a lot of customers on the phone every day. They always say they are looking for a great deal. Best price. I always ask the same questions – “What does a great deal mean to you, because it means different things to different people”. It surprises people when you ask it that way, but in order to provide the best service I can, there are basic qualifying questions that need to be answered. That is sales 101 – qualifying the customer.

It is not the customers fault that she was unaware of the geographic location of Burnaby in relation to downtown Vancouver, but now all she has stuck in her head is the price of $2500 for two people for air and hotel to Vancouver. If I was to tell her that to stay in downtown will cost her at least $1000 (or more) than the price she already has in her head, I will never win. It is hard to turn around a call like this. There are many calls like this when people have been shopping on line and think they are getting what they want, but their reality is not quite telling the same story.

She thanked me for my time and hung up the phone. I don’t know if she will end up in a hotel in Burnaby, Richmond or even Victoria if she is not asking the right questions.

If you don’t know, ask a professional that is what I always say.


You can book on line, but should you?

I bought a necklace on line last week from Aldo. I shopped around on their site, found the one I wanted, put my credit card in and picked it up at the store in the Promenade. Simple. Easy. Took about 15 minutes for the whole shopping experience. I had no issue with that.

Products like that can be purchased online without complications or difficulty. I also used my credit card travel service to book a ticket online with my point redemption. I can do that. I am capable to book a travel service online. Not every one can say the same.

Today’s call is just another example of why people should use travel agents to book their travel arrangements. Just because you can book it yourself, it doesn’t mean you should.

I answered a call from a customer in Alberta. She called to say that she needs to change something on her booking. When I asked her for the booking number, she couldn’t provide it to me. She couldn’t provide me anything actually, not the phone number it was booked under (she said the number had been changed), the invoice number, etc. I finally said what is the last name. She said, “that is the problem, the name is spelled wrong”. Okay, I replied, provide it to me under the way you spelled it so that I can pull up the file.

When I pulled up the file I saw the names and I couldn’t pronounce either one. The first name had 9 letters and the second name had 13 letters. Basically she told me that the names were reversed. “I mixed up the names, they are in the wrong order”. It gets better. The flight is leaving this afternoon and the client is at the airport and the TSA won’t allow her to go through – of course not! The name on the ticket does not match the passport. In the wrong order, it is the wrong name.

I phoned the company that her flight was booked through and they said they have to phone the airline rep and find out if it can be changed in time for her to make the flight. They told me to call back in half and hour. When I went back to the line the girl said that the TSA is trying to call the supplier for her.

This was booked on May 20th, leaving today May 24th. If the client had read their statement when it was sent to them on the 20th, this could have been avoided. If the client had reviewed their ticket when it was sent to them on May 20th this could have been avoided.

Perhaps the whole thing could have been avoided if they just picked up the phone and called and agent.

Stay tuned for more tales from a front line travel professional. Use us, we know what we are doing….



Dear Demanda – Why are they charging so much?

Dear Demanda,

I want to go to Cuba, air only to a city called Holguin. I call up the local office about once a week (sometimes more than once on the same day) ask the prices. I have been doing this for about 6 months, but I haven’t booked anything yet. The last time I went to Cuba, I only paid $584 and I can’t understand why the prices are so high. When I call the agency now, they answer my call like they know who I am, always giving me the same price and the same answer. They always ask, “Can I book that for you sir”. NO, you can’t, you are ripping me off and I refuse to pay this price. I told the girl on Sunday that I was going to call Justin Trudeau and complain about being ripped off. Why can’t I get the price I paid before?


Bags packed nowhere to go

Dear Nowhere to go,

The first thing I have to say to you is thank goodness you aren’t calling my agency on a weekly basis. Most office phones now have call display and I am sure the reason you think they know who you are when you call in, is because they do. As well, you ask for the same thing, month after month without making a reservation, they know what you are looking for. But the question is, do you know what you are looking for?

We can’t spend life thinking about what things used to cost, there really is no point. If you aren’t already aware, the taxes for most travel destinations are over $400 (for Cuba it is about $360). If you paid $584 for flight about 2 years ago even, you were lucky to do so. If you can get it again, you would be even luckier at this point in time.

Even though a lot of people want to blame Justin Trudeau for everything that is wrong with Canada and the economy, it is not his fault that the cost of travel is what it is.

My advice to you is either book your trip for the dates that you want to travel. If you don’t want to pay the current prices of the cost of travel, then resign yourself to the fact that you won’t be going to Cuba (or anywhere else) anytime soon. More importantly, stop calling the agency you are calling on a weekly basis and stop wasting their time. They could be speaking to someone who is really interested in making a reservation.

Best of luck getting to Cuba.

Demanda Refund