Years ago, a travel agency was more or less the only way you could book your holiday. However, with the rise of the internet enabling customers to ‘book online’, people began to wonder whether travel agents would go the same way as the dinosaur or the dodo. As Select Travel Holidays’ 20th anniversary in 2019 goes to suggest, this has not been the case, as we go from strength to strength from our humble beginnings from Rachel’s picnic desk table. ABTA’s 2018 Holiday Habits Report also bears this out, with 40% of 2017 overseas holidays booked through a travel agent (holiday booking websites accounted for 41%).
The internet is an enticing option, with almost as many different channels to book flights and holidays as there are cat videos online. However, there are many cases of ‘too good to be true’, and you certainly hear horror stories of scam websites, or the realisation that that super cheap flight found on Skyscanner (or similar) is such a ‘good deal’ because it involves more than one change and several layovers, and we’ve all heard about people booking flights to the wrong ‘Birmingham’ airport!
Saving you both time and money
Somehow a mendacious myth has gathered in strength, and it never fails to leave me completely nonplussed as to how people have got the idea into their heads, but there are claims that it’s more expensive to use a travel agent. Firstly, most tour operators and cruise lines have price parity with travel agents, so there’s no price advantage booking direct (and you certainly wouldn’t receive the same level of impartial advice as you would when speaking to one of our girls, whose priority is finding the right cruise or holiday to match the client in front of them or on the phone to them). Secondly, there are no additional fees to be paid to us, as any commission we receive is already covered in the price of your holiday. So that should dispel this myth that booking through a travel agent is more expensive. In fact, it can very often be the opposite, saving you both time and money. There’s a smorgasbord of options available - whether you’re looking to cruise, tour, or stay in a resort - and arrangements can be complicated, taking up your precious time, either in research or arranging the logistics, which is where we step in, bearing all the burden and dealing with all the intricate details and stresses, saving you time (and at times money, where we’ve got access to exclusive rates). In the words of some clients recently, ‘All your arrangements worked like clockwork! It was a fairly complex trip (for us!) so it was great that everything worked so smoothly. It’s been years since I’ve used a travel agent/tour operator, but we were really glad we did so on this occasion and would recommend your services to anyone.’ Along with special rates we may have access to, we are also able to offer added value with home pick-ups, airport lounges, onboard spend, and our own Select Guest Rewards, our in-house loyalty scheme which gives you reward points for bookings made, which can be carried forward for savings on future holidays with us, or even redeemed for additional benefits.
Nothing beats experience
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘agent’ as ‘a person who provides a particular service,’ such as - in the case of travel agents - booking holidays, but that’s a somewhat simplified, narrow definition of the reality of what our team do. They are more than just a conduit for bookings. In the US, travel professionals have shifted towards referring to themselves as ‘travel advisers,’ which much more closely reflects what we offer. At Select Travel Holidays, we’re really proud of our knowledge and expertise, drawn from years of experience in the travel industry, first-hand experiences onboard cruise ships, on familiarisation trips with tour operators, and hotel inspections, and we keep ourselves up-to-date with training and accreditation schemes. Our unparalleled knowledge enables us to match our clients with the cruise lines and itineraries best suited to them, advising them about cruise lines and destinations, from our own experience and knowledge. This goes beyond what you could get from an online booking engine, which is simply a vast database. Experience, expertise and knowledge enable us to curate and tailor a holiday experience for our clients, listening to what they need and what they want first. It’s hand picked, and it’s personal, and we can enhance this with our own experiences.
The Human Factor
The likes of ‘Alexa’ may be able to search a holiday for you, but does ‘she’ care? The heck she does! The internet, ‘AI’, and all the modern gizmos are all well and good, but there’s still a lot to be said for dealing with another human being. At Select Travel Holidays, we are all about the personal service, it’s what we pride ourselves on most of all - and something that our clients praise us for, time and time again. Recently, we’ve had a gentleman compliment our Sharon for ‘your thoughtfulness in your responses. Great customer service is rare these days, so it was great to have you flying that flag!’, and another client, Liz G, probably encapsulates the benefit of booking with Select Travel Holidays over the internet best: ‘The service that was provided was excellent and we would recommend Select Travel Holidays to anyone who wants to book a holiday, personal service is so much better than booking it on the Internet yourself - and easier!’ Over the years, we’ve been blessed with many repeat clients, enabling us to build real relationships to get to know what’s best for them, and in the words of one client recently ‘They [the team at Select Travel Holidays] are like friends to us and at all times take care of our needs.’ Furthermore, unlike the corporate giants of Amazon (Alexa) and Google, and many larger competitors in the travel industry itself who are largely owned by private equity companies, we are an independent, family-owned business, so with us, it is much more personal, and our small team work closely together in the best interests of our clients, with our shared goal of delivering the best customer service possible.
The ultimate peace of mind
In the past couple of years, there have been some high-profile airline insolvencies and, whilst the customers of Monarch were lucky enough to repatriated by the Government, those who used - for example - Primera Air learnt the hard way that airline fares booked independently are not included in the Civil Aviation Authority’s ATOL protection scheme. It is in cases of airline insolvency or disasters such as the infamous 2010 Ash Cloud where the value of travel agents comes to the fore, as the best way to get peace of mind is to book with a trusted expert, who helps bear the burden when things go wrong. Over the years, we have worked diligently to act in our clients’ best interests, and are at hand to help when planes go tech, or cruises have to be cancelled. Not only are we at Select Travel Holidays a helping hand at times of need, we’re your advocate when necessary, fighting your case with a cruise line or tour operator on the very rare occasion that there’s cause for conflict or complaint.
What makes Select Travel Holidays special
Select Travel Holidays is proud to be an independent, family-owned business, and whilst our team may be quite small, we’re close-knit, and family-like (even those of us who aren’t actually related to each other). Between us, there’s over 200 years of travel industry experience, including over 200 ships from over 40 different cruise lines, so there’s a veritable wealth of knowledge! Most of the team joined over ten years ago, prompting the move away from Rachel’s home to offices in Goldington Road, and over the years we’ve forged some fantastic relationships with loyal clients (and close relationships with cruise lines and tour operators).
However, we are all unique individuals, with different strengths and interests; Bella, for example, is our go-to India specialist, Julie is our Caribbean queen, Tracey’s been officially accredited as an Australia and Orlando specialist, Sharon has been certified by the Tauck Academy, and Sarah tends to get some unusual enquiries, but never fails to get her teeth into them. In addition to our core team of travel advisers, Amy is a river cruise geek (and accredited ‘Cruise Master’), and is always happy to share her experiences of Peru and small group touring. But we all share the same key principle: delivering the best customer service to clients, no matter what.
Behind the scenes, we’re also very lucky to have our lovely admin lady, Rachel Smith, who’s invaluable for her thorough, methodical processes, and has an infectious laugh in the office, and our marketing guru, Kerry, who is a creative genius with many different skills and responsibilities. Kerry’s main responsibilities include our quarterly brochure, most of our cruise-related e-newsletters, updating the cruise offers on our Cruise Select site, and print advertising. Both Kerry and Rachel have been valuable team members since 2009, when we expanded into our offices in Goldington Road.
To book your next holiday with our dedicated travel specialists, give us a call today
01234 326 778
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SELECT TRAVEL HOLIDAYS - BEDFORD'S ONLY AWARD-WINNING TRAVEL AGENCY
Independent and family-run, with a dedicated team of travel specialists with decades of experience, at Select Travel Holidays, you can be assured of first-class customer service and making your dream holiday a reality.
Let our website inspire you, give us a call, or pop in to our shop on Mill Street, Bedford, where you'll be greeted with a friendly smile, and our travel specialists will take care of all the details of your next holiday, so all you have to do is enjoy exploring the world! Whether an all-inclusive luxury resort, an epic rail adventure, or a small group tour, and everything in between, we're here to help you discover the world's most beautiful and exciting destinations - on land or at sea!