Truth in Travel Pricing

None of us should be surprised at these quotes from a travel article in the TimesOnline.co.uk (Oct 2008) by Stephen Bleach:

“Massive discounts on cruises were exposed as a con last week after leading line Fred Olsen admitted it had not sold a single cruise at full price for a year.”

A further quote from the managing director of the line, Mike Rodwell:

“the big American operators started it and the rest had to follow.”

Another surprise. On the same laptop page as this excellent article were three Google ads offering:

“Cruise Deals. Search The Top Online Cruise Deals. Read Reviews & Book Online Today.” Followed by:

“Cruise Discounts 75% Off, All cruise lines, all destinations.” And another:

“Huge Alaska Cruise Sale, Free Upgrades, Exclusive Deals & More with Guaranteed Lowest Prices!”

The travel operators behind these advertisements must think the travelling public is naive or even stupid but they would probably not use them if they did not work.

Also, these Google ads were run against a very negative, but truthful article about misleading advertising for cruises.

The travelling public continues to be treated with disdain by travel operators and advertising companies, not only by cruise lines and airlines but by all types of travel suppliers. What could be more misleading and false advertising than an airline advertising their fares in headlines that shout out:

“$49. one-way to Smithville” IN LARGE PRINT, and then:
‘based on return purchase, plus all taxes, surcharges for fuel, surcharges for security, checked baggage is extra, seat selection fees, and on and on and on.” And by the way, have fuel surcharges been reduced enough?

Not only cruise prices and airfares but also consider hotel pricing that often requires much investigation as regards the offered discounts:

“75% off! But off of what? A rack-rate that is rarely charged?

And, why can you often get cheaper rooms at an online reservation office than at the hotel front desk even when you are in their lobby and ready to book?

Next in line for pricing questions could be the packaged holiday market. How many of these are sold at the brochure price? Or, as with the above cruise line, are packaged tour operators simply following the lead of others?

Not only is the public being mislead by questionable advertising and pricing practices but once captured by a cruise line, airline or packaged resort operator they can be open to additional gouging whilst onboard the ship, aircraft or resort.

Apart from the onboard costs of alcoholic drinks which should be at duty-free prices (i.e. cheaper than onshore). Extras, such as shore excursions can also be more expensive when purchased onboard rather than ashore or even pre-departure using the internet. Similarly with resorts that have onsite booking agencies for off-resort activities. The prices are often cheaper when purchased directly from the operators or again at pre-departure directly over the internet. Airlines however, who are charging for all sorts of basic amenities from blankets, pillows, soft drinks and soon even water may not be free, have a more captive audience (the movie, ConAir comes to mind) and will continue to be the most reviled part of the travel experience.

There is hope for the future but so far only in Europe. In 2009 new rules for advertising standards will come into effect offering more protection for travellers. We must hope that these new rules will eventually spread to the rest of the world with further improvements to protect consumers worldwide.

In the travel industry. Where has the originality and creativity gone? Where are the leaders? Where has “lead, follow or get out of my way” gone? Only the followers know.

Another aspect of travel pricing is when consumers want to handle their own travel arrangements directly with the operators of hotels, lodges, tours and transportation. The pricing should reflect the fact that the products are being purchased directly from the source and not at the retail level. In other words, reduce the price by the commission that would have been paid to an agent, broker or retailer and give the traveller a direct booking discount. This action could encourage more travellers to make their own direct bookings, leading to more business and a competitive edge for the operator.

Of course, the traditional distribution channels have to be protected as many consumers require help and assistance and as yet not everyone has or wants the internet.

Travel providers do not normally show different prices on their websites as this could lead to potential clients seeking advice at the retail level and then booking directly with the operator to get a discounted price. It is unfair for retailers to lose their commissions when they have performed services for their travel-trade clients.

Consumers on the other hand, if they do not need expert advice or booking services, should have the opportunity to go directly to the source and get a direct booking discount.

Originality and creativity has returned to the travel industry. Travel providers are now able to offer travellers a direct booking discount service by using a new travel voucher system that has been introduced. With a website and the internet they can now reach out to the global travel community, not just travel agency or local traffic.

Any travel operator, from the smallest b&b to the grandest lodge or luxury tour, can offer this service. The voucher values represent the normal commissions that would have been paid out to sellers of travel but now will be given back to the buyers of travel. And, the discounted price does not have to show on their websites.

The service is leading with this new initiative and now wants to promote the thousands of small travel providers and other businesses around the world that do not use selling agents and therefore do not have sales commissions built into their pricing. The operators of the voucher service suggest that lower yields with higher volumes of direct booking discount travellers may achieve better overall returns.

Members of a new online travel club can get these vouchers free with membership and non-members can purchase them at deep discounts to their face values at another similar website. At present there are vouchers covering travel in over seventy countries from b&b’s to adventure and luxury tours.

The Club operators say that they do not charge businesses for listing their services as long as they participate in issuing vouchers enabling members to get direct booking discounts.

There are many directories linking the world of travel to the world of travellers but this new concept offers a directory with discounts on every travel selection if you are willing and able to handle your own travel bookings and arrangements directly with the listed operators.

The club operators are aware that many travel operators will continue to adhere to the business style of Mike Rodwell of Fred Olsen Lines and will continue to follow rather than lead and it is unlikely that they will ever be represented by this travel club. They are also aware that there are enough independent travel businesses that will find that their new business style of expanded selections and direct booking discounts is a better way of offering travel directly to consumers around the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Truth in Travel Pricing

Traveling Well – 10 Commandments of Wise Travel

In this age of high tech communication, the world has become a smaller place, and overseas travel, once the privilege of a few, is now enjoyed by many. However, traveling frequently is not necessarily synonymous with traveling well. I still note with dismay at the numbers of travelers that unknowingly jeopardize their own travel experience, and those of others, by failing to address the two cardinal sins of traveling: lack of planning and lack of sensitivity. I have dissected these 2 points further into the 10 Commandments of Wise Travel.

The 1st Commandment of Wise Travel is to check and organize all relevant travel documentation at least 1 week prior to departure date. This means passports, tickets, visas and travel insurance. Purchasing a passport/ document holder in order to keep all documentation together is a good investment, particularly when you are a frequent traveler. Otherwise, tour companies and travel agencies give less expensive versions away for free if you book flights with them. You may also want to alert your credit card company of the countries that you will be visiting. Due to credit card fraud and an increase in safety precautions, credit card companies are now putting a halt to cards when they notice a change of spending pattern. Although I may sound as if I am stating the obvious, checking all relevant documentation prior to departure means that you are stating your trip off on the right foot. Any mishap in this area could be enough to color not just the journey, but the rest of your trip.

The 2nd Commandment of Travel is to arrive at the airport with adequate time to check-in, and clear customs and security prior to the flight. This means airport arrival 3 hours prior to any international flight anywhere from the United States and 2 hours prior from Australia and New Zealand. Since 9/11, security procedures have tightened the world over, and one simply does not breeze through customs and security anywhere anymore. If booking a taxi to transport you to the airport, then ensure that the taxi booking is made the day/night before the flight. Similarly, if a friend/ family member is taking you, then confirm a pick-up time the day prior. I shamefully admit that my husband and I broke this rule on our last trip to Hawaii, to our detriment. We had forgotten to book our taxi for the airport the night before. Initially, we were not that worried as we don’t live too far from Kingsford-Smith International Airport. However, when the time came for us to book our taxi, even though we thought we were allowing plenty of time, our call coincided with the taxi driver changeover, and we could not get an available taxi for a very long time. This mistake caused us a great deal of stress, and it nearly caused us our flight.

The 3rd Commandment is to pack your luggage sensibly, coordinating your wardrobe carefully. This seems to be a common mistake for women. Rule of thumb is if an item of clothing cannot be worn and coordinated 3-4 ways, leave it at home. Keep the main items in a monochromatic colour tone, adding your splash of colour with a scarf or jewellery. Knits are ideal to travel with as they wrinkle far less than wovens and are easier to wash and dry. Always travel with a good quality,lightweight pashmina that fits into your handbag when folded. This can be pulled out and used during the flight or when the temperature drops during your travels. Keep shoes down to a minimum, as this only adds weight to your luggage. Have one pair of everyday shoes, one pair of good walking shoes, and another pair for dressier occasions. Leave your “skyscraper” heels at home, as they will only interfere with your mobility, not to mention the damage it will do to your spine.

The 4th Commandment is to make sure that you nurture yourself on long flights. Drink plenty of water, even if it means more frequent trips to the lavatory, and limit your alcohol intake. The pressurized environment of an aircraft is extremely dehydrating. Keep your skin clean and well moisturized on the flight, and for ladies, if you can manage it, leave your face make-up free. Any foundations or powders will merely clog up your pores. If you have an ipod, I cannot recommend listening to guided meditations on the ipod highly enough. From personal experience, it helps reduce jetlag. Wear clothing that has a stretch in it and does not cut into your arms, chest, waist, crotch etc. get up frequently for a stretch and a walk up and down the aisles whenever possible. The more that you can nurture yourself on a long flight, the more energy you will have and the less jetlag you will experience when you reach your destination.

The 5th Commandment is to keep a travel diary or journal in order to record all your experiences for posterity, and to share with friends on your return. Take note of all the interesting sites visited and the names and addresses of any fabulous eateries and restaurants. Take lots of photos and collate into an album or CD. This will ensure that the memories of your trip will live on in your mind long after the trip is over. And should you want to revisit a particular site, shop or restaurant, or even recommend a particular place to friends, you won’t have to struggle to remember it.

The 6th Commandment is not to be rude and obnoxious to cabin crew, waiters, waitresses, tour group staff and hotel staff during your travels. I cannot stress this point enough. Although it may be instantly gratifying to vent your spleen when you are tired, irritated and frustrated during your travels, please remember that these people hold your comfort, not to mention your food, in their hands. If a complaint needs to be made, by all means do so with assertiveness, but always accompany it with respect and courtesy for the individual that you are addressing. Never resort to sarcasm or humiliation. If necessary, take the problem further to a superior. If a problem is communicated by you in an aggressive manner, then you can expect at the very least defensiveness and resentment in return. If there seems to be no solution to the problem, question whether the issue at hand is worth fighting for. If it isn’t, then save yourself the aggravation and have the wisdom to mentally let go of it and walk away.

The 7th Commandment is to have as authentic an experience as possible when visiting other countries. The whole point of travel is to broaden your horizons, discover unfamiliar lands and open ourselves to new experiences. Research the country’s festivals prior to your trip and partake in the experience when you get there. Find out where the locals eat and frequent. Try the cuisine that is typical of the area, listen to different music and attempt some phrases in the local language. Educate yourself on the country’s history. The results can be quite liberating. You will develop a deeper respect and appreciation for the country and the people that you are visiting, and enrich your travel experience tenfold. If more people did this, our world would not be so divisive.

The 8th Commandment is to perform random acts of kindness whilst on your journey. When confronted with a fellow traveler who may be in a spot of trouble, take the time out to help without expectation of a reward. If you have the resources to help someone else, then the experience is its own reward. if the situation is a small one, than a small gesture on your part can revitalize a potentially negative situation for the other person. If the situation is serious, then try to get some help. Remember that the laws of karma are alive and well.

The 9th Commandment is to be sensitive towards the ecology and culture of the lands that you visit. Imagine for a moment that foreign visitors to your home town littered the grounds, destroyed the vegetation, insulted your neighbours and exhibited a gross disregard for your customs and culture. The scenario is not a pleasant one, and yet we as travelers do this when we visit foreign lands. So be extra mindful of this on your next trip, particularly when traveling as a group.

The 10th and final Commandment of wise travel is to savor and enjoy every moment of your travels. Remember that the world is a wonder and a blessing, and the opportunity to explore it is something to be grateful for. Learn to be in the moment as wise traveling is just as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

In conclusion, if you do your homework, and take care of all the necessary planning and organization for your trip prior to your departure, you are in a much better position to make the most of your trip. Utilise a checklist, as it saves plenty of headaches later on.

My website, Postcards From Millie, has an excellent Travel Checklist on the Home Page that you can print out each time you need to prepare for a trip. I have designed it after decades of travel, and I use it extensively myself. You’ll find it on [http://www.postcardsfrommillie.com]

Victoria Ugarte was born in Manila, Philippines to parents of Spanish heritage and received a unique Spanish-Filipino upbringing. She was bitten by the travel bug at just eight years of age when she travelled to Madrid with her parents, and where she lived for a short time. Much later in her life, fashion and travel became synonymous with Victoria’s career. A member of the Australian “ragtrade” for over 20 years, she flew all over Australia and the world, dipping into wonderful and exotic places, as well as more traditional destinations. Her flair for seeking out special places to add color to her travel itinerary, plus her skills in pulling together a suitable travel wardrobe within a limited timeframe, developed rapidly. With much work-related travel in the areas of fashion buying, merchandising, marketing and trend research, Victoria was in a wonderful position of being able to learn from local business contacts where to eat, where to shop, what to see, opening many avenues for great experiences. Inspired by her hero and muse, Amelia “Millie” Ear

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Traveling Well – 10 Commandments of Wise Travel