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How much extra is a travel agent worth vs booking on your own?

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Jul 15th, 2010, 07:49 AM
  #1
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How much extra is a travel agent worth vs booking on your own?

I normally research and book my own trips, but this time around with everything going on, I decided it might be easier to go through a travel agent. The quote I received from one of the more popular outfits came in higher than I expected. So I went through their entire itinerary, and just did a quick check on how much it would cost if I booked it all directly with each suggested option. After only ten minutes of searching, I found out that if I just followed their exact itinerary and booked it myself, I would save almost $1500!

I feel a little guilty for moving forward and booking it on my own, since they did all the research and suggesting for me, but $1500 sounds like enough reason to go that direction. Am I missing something where that $1500 can actually be worth still sticking with the agent? I expected to pay a little bit of a surcharge for the convenience and follow up support in case something went wrong, but that sounds like a lot. Should I feel bad for just "stealing" their suggested trip?

A little more info: my trip is very straightforward (one safari, two hotels, one domestic flight) and I did factor in all taxes and fees when I did my follow up pricing validation. Thoughts?
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Jul 15th, 2010, 08:07 AM
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$1500 out of how much total?
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Jul 15th, 2010, 08:14 AM
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Their quoted trip is $13,500, my price is $12k.
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Jul 15th, 2010, 08:24 AM
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The $1,500 is a tad over 10% which can be mark-up, and more than reasonable as a commission. Would, however, suggest you post your itinerary so comments can be made.
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Jul 15th, 2010, 08:31 AM
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Sure, here's the proposed agenda:

SFO to Johannesburg international flight
JNB to Madiwke
Staying at Mateya Resort for 4 nights
Madikwe to JNB, JNB to Cape Town (domestic flights)
Staying at Four Rosmead for 3 nights
Cape Town to JNB flight
Staying at The Peech Hotel for 2 nights
JNB to Cairo to SFO international flight
(Cairo trip to be planned independently)

So that is the trip for $13,500. It sounds like 10% markup is customary then; would you advise that it is worth it to book with them knowing that?
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Jul 15th, 2010, 10:22 AM
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I don't see anything on that itinerary that would cause me to pay the extra. It looks pretty straight forward. Is there a meet and greet at each aiport? Do you need to get to FedAir for the the Madikwe legs (different airport)? Were there any tours in Cape Town or Joburg included? Ethically, I would make a few changes before booking without the agent.

$12K for two inclucing int'l air?
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Jul 15th, 2010, 10:35 AM
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"The quote I received from one of the more popular outfits came in higher than I expected."

Then may I ask?
1) Who is the outfit? Some are known to be quite high.
2) What did the quotes from other queries sent come in at?"
-- Same? Higher? Lower?

If all are for the same itinerary - where, # of days, etc. - I can understand not going with that which is higher, but if any were lower, why not with that company? Or have still another operator price for further comparison. I know it's time consuming and while I feel 10% is reasonable, if you're not... pursue further.

Sounds as if you're traveling solo. If so and if it was me I'd prefer to know I had one contact (this outfitter or another) should the unforeseen happen... volcanoes erupting, airline strikes, and who know what else these days.
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Jul 15th, 2010, 11:04 AM
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The travel agency is Go2Africa. I haven't quoted it out with any other agencies yet. Not sure which is the least ethical choice - booking their itinerary on my own, or shopping their itinerary with other agencies? (I am happy with their picks for airlines and accommodations.)

@christabir: The price is for two people, including air. No tours are included. Airport transfers were built into their price. I'm not sure about the FedAir part, but I figured the resort could help me with that information, if I were to go through them direct.

@sandi, I guess that's what I was trying to figure out....I know unforseeable things can happen, which is where an agent comes in handy. Now that I know that 10% markup is customary, I guess I just need to determine for myself if that is worth a little more peace of mind.
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Jul 15th, 2010, 11:23 AM
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Where, which items, were the biggest difference in cost to you? The TA should break down each major cost item for you in their quote. If not, ask for it.

regards - tom
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Jul 15th, 2010, 11:34 AM
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Oh for a repost/edit capability - you listening FODORS?????
We have booked several safaris with the same (my TA), more complex than yours involving three countries and three camps, two hotels, connecting flights etc. and TA provided detail cost of each item. Which were exactly the same as if I had booked any/all myself. But we always do the international air (USA to usually JNB) ourselves. Soooo . . . .

Wondering, airfare differnces can be huge. What is you international airfare quote from TA, if from USA say JFK should be less than $1,500 RT (maybe a lot less).

regards - tom
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Jul 15th, 2010, 11:46 AM
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OK - let's assume they included transfers to/from hotels and lodge. They are about $100 each way. If you need to get to/from FedAir for your Madikwe flights (and I don't know about that) then it's another $100 each way. So it's not really $1500 as there are some extra costs that you haven't taken into account. I like using an agent for the above reasons. Fortunately we never had any problems.

It is not unethical to get a second opinion, in my opinion.
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Jul 15th, 2010, 12:30 PM
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Indeed, I would be surprised if go2africa quotes a rate that is higher than what you would pay if you book direct. As far as I know they do not add any booking fees (most tour operators don't add a booking fee, traditional travel agencies do sometimes add a booking fee or service charge).
The best way to compare is to get a complete breakdown of the quote, including all transfers, air fares, everything. Then see how much was charged for accommodation at each destination, and I'm reasonably sure you will find that they charged the normal published rate for that lodge or hotel (the same as what you will find on the website for that lodge). Some tour operators can even offer discounts on the normal rate, because of their buying power with the lodges. Im short, it should not cost more to book through a tour operator than booking direct. If you find it does cost more, find another tour operator.
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Jul 15th, 2010, 01:40 PM
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Doubt go2africa added anything, commission comes from the lodging/s, airlines, etc. As others, the difference has to be some items you have overlooked and for 2/paxs... the price is good.

While not every outfitter will breakout all costs, you can at least inquire as to your per night room/tent rates (knowing there are daily park fees and taxes), to compare with online prices or another outfitter. Even if the outfitter's price is higher, they can often be providing a preferred room, beverages, and other bennies!

But, there is no reason not to put the itinerary out to another outfitter in South Africa.
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Jul 15th, 2010, 01:48 PM
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TC
 
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I used to be a travel agent - back when we all worked on commission from the airlines, hotels, etc. Now, no one pays a TA any commission, so the few that are still in business have to pay the bills somehow. They do it in one of two ways, by marking up the products they sell or by charging you a flat fee to plan the trip.

You are a very independent traveler, used to doing your own booking, so the 10% price seems high. Its because you don't value your own time. I put in hours, days, weeks, months - sometimes years of research planning our travels. I do it for free, but I wouldn't expect anyone else to do it for free. The travel business is like many others, sometimes the work is farely easy and the 10% is more than enough, sometimes things go wrong and the 10% doesn't begin to cover the time one will invest to make it right. In the end, you just pray that the average will cover the payroll.

Go2africa is a web based "travel agent" with a lot of personal experience in Africa. Time invested to acquire that knowledge is their product, whether they invested that time before or after you contacted them. After reading their "About Us" section, I'm guessing that you chose them because they have first hand knowledge about your destination - you wanted someone with a very good base of information. You can't look at how many hours they put into your intinerary, you have to look at how many years it took them to gather the information, contacts and personal knowledge to become "one of the more popular outfits". Having owned a TA, I can tell you they probably spent years with little or no profit before they had a "product" (base of knowledge) to sell. You used their knowledge - you should pay them for it. Lesson learned on how these things work.
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Jul 15th, 2010, 03:57 PM
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TC

Very good points!

I am wondering.............is there anybody out there who would like to work for free?

If I were Go2Africa I would certainly not again plan a trip for a client who requests quotes after quotes expeting consultation regarding the trip and then go shopping on the net. Something like loyalty obviously isn't considered anymore.

I would book myself and then also sort out my flight delays, cancellations, overbookings, de-gradings et etc in order to safe money

Happy travels!

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Jul 15th, 2010, 04:04 PM
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.....the mark up of 10% should be considered a bargain.

If the package is reasonable why should a travel agent break down costs? Since when does a consultant break down a hourly fee to all the overhead's involved?

Costco - does it tell the customer about its margin?

The "packaging" offers the opportunity to do a mix-calculation and most TA are obliged to not undermine a venue's rack rate.

I do the booking myself because I love it but certainly not in order to save money.
Also exploitation of a business in order to block its time and then go shopping for the cheapest deal using all the information provided is nothing but bad style.

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Jul 15th, 2010, 04:22 PM
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Well TC and SV I'm sure my TA and his staff does not work for me for free. I'm also sure they charge me no more than the prices I find on the internet. Believe me, I check it all going in. And I'll put their invoice from my last trip if you want to see it. So how does my TA and staff get paid, any ideas?

regard - tom
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Jul 15th, 2010, 05:22 PM
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Alina,
Ethically, the right thing to do is to contract with Go2Africa. To use take their knowledge and expertise and use it to your own gain is just plain ummm, how do I say...slimey.
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Jul 15th, 2010, 06:42 PM
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I too usually make all our travel arrangements myself, but I used Go2Africa a couple of years ago to plan a trip which involved several lodges, ground transfers and a boat transfer.

I didn't press them for details or breakdown of the costs because they were within the budget I had specified and I was happy that the arrangements were what I wanted for a price I could live with.

Whatever their margin was, it was worth every penny. Our flight into JNB was delayed, which meant we missed our onward flight, which meant we missed transfers, our first night's lodging, etc. Like a game of dominoes, the effects of that delayed flight tumbled down through the next few days.

One call to our Go2Africa agent and she took care of the whole mess, notifying those who needed notification, rescheduling transfers and boats, cancelling the first night's lodging and rearranging things so we didn't miss out on several special parts of the trip, and on and on. She saved the trip for us, stopped our anxiety and fretting in its tracks, checked back with us during the next few days to make sure thins were going as planned. She was our guardian angel and, as I said above, worth every penny.
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Jul 15th, 2010, 08:29 PM
  #20
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Wow, come back home to a lot more input.

To be clear, when I asked Go2Africa for the quote, I had no intentions of shopping it around or using their information to book it on my own. It wasn't until the number came in much higher than I expected (I actually had estimated the trip to be closer to $10k, but after calculating it out realized it was $12k) that I did a double take. I don't want folks (or the TA) to think I was just using them for information.

After digging into the numbers, it appears that the bulk of the cost difference is in the Mateya portion, where my rate (as found through Luxury Link) is $600 less than the TA's rate. I sent it to her with the hopes she can match the rate; if not I may just book the Mateya portion through LL and then give her the rest of the itinerary. It'll still be a few hundred dollars more than me going direct but I agree with some of the others that the convenience and service would be worth it.
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