First of all let us fast forward a few months, leaving 2020 well and truly behind. It’s safe to say that it has been a pretty disastrous year, especially for all of us working within the travel industry; a definite year to forget.
However, I hope as you read this, vaccines are getting rolled out, confidence is picking up and that we can all finally start thinking of traveling abroad again. I personally am hoping that this will happen around Easter time 2021. I urge you all to start looking at, not necessarily travelling differently but becoming more conscientious with whom you are travelling.
Bypass the once popular brands
We have all seen some very established travel brands fall by the wayside recently. Some of which didn’t deserve to but others with dated business models that have not changed with the times I sympathise less with them but empathise with their employees. I have never been a fan of stacking it high and selling it cheap, especially when it comes to travel, which has happened more and more of over the last few years. When I talk about travel in this instance I am not talking about short European breaks or a good value weekend away; but your two to three week annual holiday that you have been saving for and looking forward to for the whole year.
Seek out inspirational and independent travel companies
So before falling into your same old travel habits again, I urge you to do a little more research this time round and become more conscientious with whom you decide to travel in 2021 and beyond. My personal recommendation is to seek out those smaller in size inspirational independent travel companies, that offer the traveller a truer and more intimate travelling experience. These companies can get lost somewhat in the fierce world of travel where the big travel brands with deeper pockets can spend a large amount on advertising, always featuring on the first page of google searches, and have many more people posting Trip Adviser reviews which creates an unlevel playing field.
So the next time you search for a company to travel with; check the quality and content of the reviews and don’t be afraid to venture past the first 3 pages of google searches, as I suspect you will be surprised at what you may find. Once you have found a few different independent travel companies, start with asking them a few questions.
Find out why they set their travel company up in the first place
Many of these independent companies are quite small and you are often able to speak to the founder or a senior member of the company. It is then possible to gain their knowledge and passion for the country that you are hoping to visit, and their company’s philosophy.
Where are they based or have been based?
Many independent companies are still, or have been, based for a time in the country or countries in which they specialise. Rather than a company that has a London address and employs younger sales agents, many of which have not even travelled to the country that they are selling.
Who will I be travelling with and how?
Most larger travel companies use another company in your chosen destination to deliver you holiday program, meaning you actually travel with a different company altogether rather than the one you are booking with. Whereas with many independent travel companies you can book and travel with the same company, not only creating consistency but this also builds up trust and confidence.
What will my guide(s) be like?
Can the sales agent name any of the guides they use? Generally, a guide is just another number to most companies but with an independent travel company they are in some cases almost like family. With our travel company that definitely is the case, as we always try and match the personalities of the client with the personalities of the guide. For example, basic pairing by choosing a guide that has children if guiding a family.
By using these questions as a guide, you can filter out pretty quickly, with whom you should be spending your money. Pick a company that is genuinely interested in the country you want to travel to and the company that is interested in you and your experience and not necessarily your money. You will very quickly get the feeling of which companies truly have the passion, knowledge, and expertise to create a travel itinerary tailor-made just for you. Rather than a one size fits all off the shelf product that is forced on you by the sales agent that makes the most commission on this particular holiday package.
Independent travel does not have to be expensive; in fact, it could be cheaper!
There is a travel myth that traveling with an independent travel company rather than a brand is going to cost you a lot more. This is total rubbish and in actual fact using an independent travel company will in a lot of instances cost you less not more. Yes that’s right… less!
The simple answer to this is that usually with non-independent travel companies there is always a middle man involved, meaning there are two lots of mark-ups added on to the cost of your holiday. Also don’t forget the sales agent sitting in the London office also wants their commission too.
Benefits of traveling with an independent travel company
Independent travel companies tend to specialise in one country or region of the world; so if you happen to stumble upon a company offering you a huge range of products, just like a supermarket it is most likely that the products come from many different companies. Specialising in a field means the product knowledge of the country you want to travel to will generally be much better, more up to date and more flexible with your travel plans.
Most good companies will also know exactly how to adapt an itinerary to suit the needs and wishes of the traveller, without being led by hotel commissions or pre planned partnerships. A family can still experience a similar traveling experience to an adventurous active couple if adapted properly. This way your holiday is more personable, and you get a truer, richer travelling experience with more of a connection to the country to which you are travelling to.
There are many more benefits of travelling with an independent travel company, however on the flipside I believe there are many many more pitfalls of travelling with mass travel brands. I just urge you when the time does come for you to start planning your next holiday is to take my advice and see for yourself that traveling with a smaller boutique independent travel company is definitely the way forward. This message is especially relevant to the current environment where we have been urged to shop independently and locally if we can, to save our local business as these are the business that have be set up with love and passion and 100% deserved to be saved.
Peter Jones is the Company Founder of See Asia Differently. See Asia Differently is an independent travel company specialising in unique, truer travelling experiences and holidays to South East Asia.