who to rely upon for travel agent recommendations?

Old May 7th, 2020, 08:55 AM
  #21  
 
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Hi Surfmom - yes my annual insurance policy covers every trip I take. Obviously the cost you pay for the policy depends on certain criteria - for example, things like winter sports coverage carries a premium (I'm not a skier so don't need that!). Also, it's worth noting that if you go somewhere in contravention of your own governments advice (eg a war zone!) your insurance is invalid. But generally, it is a good thing to have. I am lucky to get mine through work, where I get a discount as being part of a pool of people doing the same thing. Having it also means you don't have to research and tailor cover to every trip you make - mine covers all trips up to 30 days in length automatically. So it's a time-saver as well.
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Old May 7th, 2020, 10:18 AM
  #22  
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RM67 ok, I really should investigate. Can you share the travel insurance provider? We aren't skiiers also... although we will probably be doing less travel in the next few years with kids in both high school and colleges and different breaks. Interesting concept. Had I known about it 6 months ago, would probably be cheaper than now!
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Old May 7th, 2020, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by surfmom View Post
. . . I'm not sure there is a difference between a tour operator and a travel agent. She booked hotels and hired a driver. Sounds like a travel agent to me. (In the US, they are virtually the same).
I'm going to have to disagree with the statement that tour operators & travel agents are the same thing. Travel agents (except specialty agents & that's an entirely separate category) will book travel & packages for their customers most anywhere & are generally not in business with those who provide the services. They provide the options & coordinate as many or as few of the elements of your trip as you choose & pay them to do it. Tour operators sell packages to particular locations and provide services with employees & subcontractors in those places. They may operate in 1 region or country or larger companies may provide trips all over the world. But unlike a travel agent (most travel agents) if you ask a tour operator that sells packages that they design & manage in Morocco you wouldn't go to them for an airline ticket to Vietnam. That isn't what they sell. You'd go to a travel agent.

I've used both, one tour operator, whose office is in Toronto, for a small group guided tour to Morocco on my first visit there. The group manager was a company employee & traveled with us, the guide that was with us for the duration was hired locally & supplemented in some locations by another very local guide. They have group tours around the world that operate similarly but would not sell you a airline ticket only or put together elements for a custom trip. For that you'd use a travel agent. I'm sure there's a bit of overlap, especially in higher end services but in general you go to a travel agent for one basket of services & to a tour operator for another. That's my experience.
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Old May 7th, 2020, 05:09 PM
  #24  
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The whole industry is going to change – including insurers. Our long-term travel insurer - Johnson Unifund – pulled the plug & stopped accepting all new travel policies a month ago. We haven’t submitted our small claim for canceled trips yet.

I am very sorry to hear about your problems, surfmom. Morocco is a worthwhile destination.

And just a btw . . .TimCullis . . . can be trusted. I have been reading about his travels in Morocco (by motorcycle no less!) for years on other forums.
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Old May 9th, 2020, 12:45 AM
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Originally Posted by surfmom View Post
TimCullis You may have been willing to provide a reliable name, but there are so many scammers. How could someone verify you from Adam? "Oh, I got the name from a guy on the internet." "You whaaaaaat?"
I agree, Tripadvisor's Moroccan forum has many 'quiet' scammers who don't post but instead send private messages.

How can someone verify me? Well for a start I'm a Tripadvisor Destination Expert for Morocco which says something, but I often send a link to a nice piece written seven years ago by the View from Fez blog, THE VIEW FROM FEZ: Tim Cullis - A Great Contribution to Moroccan Tourism

Oh, and thanks for the kind words, Ian.

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Old May 9th, 2020, 06:11 AM
  #26  
 
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Originally Posted by surfmom View Post
How much trust do you/ should you put in printed sources vs. online for travel recommendations?

What is their duty to amend their recommended list when things go wrong?

How much due diligence should you do before you book with someone?


Had a recent experience with a travel agent. In the course of dealing with her, I have discovered her "proudly advertised" ASTA membership is not valid and she is NOT bound to their Code of Ethics. She also advertises (and has in her contract) a "guarantee" that she is not standing behind. When our recent trip was cancelled, she - finally - agreed to refund us about 30% of our trip. (country with closed borders, state of emergency, closed hotels, etc.) (This after we offered to pay non-refundable deposits and $2k to her or postpone it).

I relied upon:
- orange book printed recommendation (also listed online)
- TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence
- excellent reviews

I have emailed both TripAdvisor and the book editor to ask them to consider changing their recommendation based on her mis-representation of advertising as well as her fake "guarantee". They basically told me that this is a dispute I have with the travel agent and they won't get involved.

How do we find travel providers if the people we trust - the orange book - continue to advertise for fraudulent travel providers?

Should I have verified that she was a member of ASTA before we booked? Do you generally do that?

thanks all - just interested in thoughts -
First of all I rely on the tried and true which in my case is a TA I have used for decades.

That being said how would I go about learning about a prospective new provider? I would do as much research as possible to vet them and preferably from previous customers. Once when looking for tour operators in port I saw an ad and checked references on the cruise critic port board.and found several red flags so out he goes.

I also try to get those who accept payment by cc just in case so I have some protection if shenanigans occurs.

Get advice from others. For example when I was looking for tour guides in ports ask here and/or on other forums. I got good advice on cruise critic port boards, here and Frommers.

Pick a guide and google by name and reviews and complaints.

So far this has worked quite well.

Good luck.

Larry.
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Old May 14th, 2020, 06:35 AM
  #27  
 
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Apologies for the late response but it took me a while to track down details of my insurer. It's Howden. This is in the UK though - no idea if/where else they might be available. Lots of companies will offer annual policies though.
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Old May 15th, 2020, 05:31 AM
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Ian TimCullis thanks for the information. Should we have an opportunity again (who knows when?), I know who to track down!

MmePerdu I get what you are saying is the difference between a travel agent and a tour operator. However, in the US, at least, there really isn't a legal distinction between the two. In this case, it was a private tour - she booked the hotels, the driver/guide, and set up the activities. I think - in the future - I will set up the hotels and the activities and track down a driver myself. I would have had more legal and financial protection had I done it myself.

jacketwatch I had done most of those things you recommend. She was recommended in the orange book (both in print and online). She got high reviews on that other travel site (over many years). I didn't ask for references and check those - I find that travel providers will cherry pick who they want you to talk to.

We did book on our credit card - and we have initiated a dispute. I don't have final resolution, but I have much documentation about the whole situation.

I was dealing with a bit of a time crunch - we were booking in January for April (Easter week). I know, not an excuse, but an explanation maybe. I guess I should have realized that when I asked for a phone call to discuss the trip - instead of emails back and forth - and she either couldn't/wasn't willing to do a phone call - that was a red flag. We ended up with multiple emails, which could have been avoided had we had a phone call.

RM67 thank you for sharing. Obviously, now is not the time, but I will put it in my back pocket for when we can travel again,

thank you all. The lesson I've learned is that I think I would just rather do it myself. I've used a travel agent/tour operator twice in the last 20 years. The other time they were awesome (and I am using them again for a trip in a year). This time? A failure.
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Old May 15th, 2020, 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Dukey1 View Post
A lot of people no longer deal with travel agents AT ALL and now you know why.
In post covid19 it may be very helpful to have an agent. I cannot imagine what happened to those who had to rearrange flights when borders began closing during the period of the lockdowns worldwide. I don't think covid19 will go away anytime soon, and I think now and again, lockdowns may come up depending on circumstances. It is good to have someone take the trouble to ensure you continue with your travel
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Old May 15th, 2020, 06:27 AM
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Spoken like a travel agent. Oh, you are one, aren't you? Ugandan operator offering a "range of safari packages"....
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Old May 15th, 2020, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Spoken like a travel agent. Oh, you are one, aren't you? Ugandan operator offering a "range of safari packages"....
True I am a tour operator in Uganda. But in this case, I am speaking from personal experience and not on the business side. A family member had to cancel a trip on 20 March just before lockdown in Uganda.While we lost some, we will get a discount when we book the same trip once travel opens up here and the destination...

Last edited by KweziOutdoors; May 15th, 2020 at 07:21 AM. Reason: add extra info
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Old May 15th, 2020, 07:29 AM
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Did you actually read the first post?

TAs don't seem to be helping much with getting refunds from cruise lines, and I have read encouraging reports about refunds direct from airlines.

When/if I start to travel again I will be careful to book refundable rates, unless the amount is small enough I am OK with "self-insuring", but I will continue to book my own travel.
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Old May 15th, 2020, 09:29 AM
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KweziOutdoors ha! What you are saying does NOT match with my experience.

I forgot about this experience. #3 with a travel agent and #2 fail. Another experience with a travel agent - we had booked my oldest daughter's flights to and from Europe via Am Ex travel (I am Platinum).

When I needed to get her home, I couldn't get anyone to answer calls. I waited on hold for 2 hours once. TWO HOURS! I finally gave up because she wanted to get flights home.

I am so disappointed in their customer service. Her eventual flight - in May - was cancelled. The AmEx Travel people (idiots) tried to tell me it was a non-refundable flight and they didn't have to give me a refund. After finally getting a supervisor, he conceded that I am due a refund of the unused portion. I am still awaiting that one. (and I expect it to be awhile). I was NOT impressed with them.

Once more, never again.
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Old May 16th, 2020, 10:30 PM
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A lot of people no longer deal with travel agents AT ALL and now you know why.

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