How to find a good local luxury travel advisor and why you should use a professional travel agency to plan your vacation

When you think about planning your vacation and you start to feel a bit overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, there are professionals who are capable and ready to step in and give you a hand. With the proliferation of online information, much of it unverifiable, and then there’s your time which always seems to run short, choosing a professional to head up this project for you is a wise decision. 

Think of it as a smart delegation. Similar to looking for the right professional accountant to handle your taxes, the right contractor to fix your roof, or the talented interior designer to decorate your living room. The professionals have industry experience, they know where to go for the right products, and they know the best way to get the job done. The same is true for travel professionals. Reputable luxury travel advisors will be good listeners who respond to your needs, are knowledgeable about the destination you wish to travel, and the type of traveling you want to do, and can match all these elements to what you are as a person are interested in.

4 ways you can find a good local luxury travel advisor

  1. Referrals-Ask your family, friends, and colleagues. If you see one of your Facebook friends posting some fabulous vacation pics, reach out and ask them if they used someone to help book their vacation.
  2. ASTA Society of Travel Advisors) ASTA is a global advocate for travel advisors. They are the leaders in the industry and the most visible body of travel advisors.  Travel advisors who join ASTA pay annual dues, take their professional responsibilities seriously and maintain a commitment to integrity with client service.
  3. Google search local businesses. Type in keywords like, “find a luxury travel agent near me”, or “best luxury travel agent in Gilbert, Arizona” will produce a list of websites. Look at each website and read the reviews, areas of specialty, and get a feel of the overall professionalism of the website. A good luxury travel agency will have a good website and will feature high-end partners like Abercrombie & Kent, Four Seasons, and Mandarin Oriental.
  4.  Luxury Travel Host Agencies & Consortiums-Many travel agencies belong to luxury host agencies and consortia like Gifted Travel Network and Virtuoso. These are organizations that help travel advisors with access to vetted suppliers, essential training, marketing material, travel conferences, and other support. Joining a luxury travel consortium is very exclusive and the requirements are very strict. A travel agency must submit extensive documentation, undergo a stringent interview process, and maintain very high professional standards. 

5 questions to ask your luxury travel advisor or agency before you hire them

  1. What type of clientele do you typically service? If you are looking to plan a family-friendly trip to Germany, you will want to work with an advisor who specializes in family travel and has experience booking trips to Europe. On the other hand, if you want to plan an adventure trip to hike Kilimanjaro, you will want to work with an advisor who specializes in adventure travel. Make sure your travel goals align with the type of services the agency provides.
  2. Do you charge professional fees? Luxury travel advisors often charge professional fees for their time and expertise. These fees cover the time they spend researching and composing your proposal to presenting your recommendations based on your travel needs; and their experience and industry knowledge.
  3. Are you a member of ASTA? A professional organization membership is an important indicator that the agency is committed to serving its clients in an ethical and professional manner.
  4. Are you part of a consortium and if so which one? Although it is not necessary for a travel agency to belong to a consortium, many memberships offer travel agencies special benefits and amenities that they can pass along to their clients.
  5. Do you carry E&O insurance? Errors and omissions i.e., E&O insurance is a professional liability policy that covers travel agencies in a variety of situations including coverage for personal injury, negligence, defense costs, and claims against services rendered in the past.

The WHY’s of using a professional luxury travel advisor

Knowledge. You don’t know what you don’t know.  Simply hopping online and booking your hotel or tour seems simple enough, but how do you know you’re choosing the best hotel for your needs, with amenities that best suit your tastes, located in the area that will be most convenient for your activities while you are visiting? There’s so much technology that delivers, yet many things you won’t or can’t know simply by searching online. Not to mention, your search data, collected and aggregated by marketing companies drives the results you are seeing and is not the same as what your other family members or friends might see when they do the same search. 

For example, have you ever searched for something like, “boutique hotel in Rome”, and before you know it, your feed fills up with ads for hotels by the Colosseum? The photos look great, but how can you be sure the images are accurate? In fact, how do you even know if the hotel is in the right location if you have never been to Rome? Add to that, do you even have a clue if the price is competitive or if the hotel is in a safe area of the city? Let alone if the service is up to any reasonable standard. 

Have you heard of dynamic pricing? It’s more than just a myth. The airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, all bank on you making your own reservations, and might charge you higher rates based entirely on your search history using dynamic pricing algorithms. These algorithms can show different users different prices based on a variety of factors, such as which device they are using, their location, and even their spending history. It’s not illegal to use technology to predict your buying behavior, and almost every industry, not just travel, uses this technology.

Luxury travel advisors know and understand the products they recommend to their clients, because they have spent years cultivating relationships with the hotel owners, concierges, tour operators, and guides they work with. They have access to contracted rates and amenities that enable them to provide VIP status to their clients. A reputable and experienced travel advisor takes the time to know and understand your personality, interests, and spending considerations for their trusted partners. The power of a human connection will always deliver a higher quality outcome than that of a technical interface.

A Custom Experience. Your luxury travel agency will deliver a full-service experience with a custom-designed comprehensive itinerary based on your travel desires. Your itinerary will include everything you can imagine about your destination’s selected luxury accommodations, how you will transport from place to place, interesting experiences and tours, and other discoveries you may never even know existed. Your travel advisor is an expert, knows other experts, and will recommend dining, spas, shopping, and other incredible things for you to experience that you can’t find on google. You can relate to locals who might be able to show you to your own ancestral home in Europe, you may find yourself trekking through the Dolomites…the adventures are all there waiting, and you don’t need to lift a finger to worry about the logistics.

VIP ME!  It’s safe to assume to all enjoy a little pampering and special attention now and then. Did you know that your luxury travel advisor can contact hotel management and give you instant VIP status at their hotel? It’s true, and you cannot ever VIP yourself, just so you know. Also, your travel advisor can be a terrific resource for help if you miss a flight connection or need help making a last-minute change and need a good advocate with some pull.