Holidays are all about fun – and for the majority of us, indeed that’s just what they are, lots of fun.
But a number of events over the last year have reminded travelers that things do not always go according to plan. Floods, volcanic ash clouds and more in the past year have made a real mess of travel itineraries.
Earthquakes, radiation leaks and tsunamis have terrorized tourists. Holidaymakers have been left cowering in their hotels during civil uprisings – or else struggling desperately to get flights amongst thousands of tourists trapped at airports.
While they might be popular uprisings – they aren’t nearly so popular with tourists.
One common trait during such scenarios is that travelers are often united in their condemnation of governments and embassies for not doing enough to help them out.
And with more and more people enjoying their holidays in far-flung shores, as a consequence there are more people than ever before at serious risk of being caught up in uncontrollable events.
Predictably, travel agents say that these kind of events justify paying more to deal with a savvy agent, instead of trying to do everything on the cheap.
By choosing to travel independently, should the proverbial poop hit the fan, you are all on your own, agents warn.
But how much can travel agents really help when disaster does strike? It’s unlikely they are going to send out the cavalry to pluck you away to safety the minute trouble breaks out.
However, they can at least provide good sources of information and advice on what to do. Also, due to their contracts, it’s probable that they can help out with the unexpected costs that making a quick getaway entails.
Peter Hosper of the Travel Authority Company based in Sydney, remembers “The moment the first earthquake hit, we sent out an email to all of our clients holidaying in Japan and the Asia-Pacific area.”
“Due to the timing, many of our clients were unaware of the tsunami alert. We worked around the clock, sharing information, making sure that everyone on our books was safe,” recalls Hosper.
Having a point of contact with an experienced travel agent is imperative, says travel agent David Goldman.
Citing last year’s volcanic ash cloud which shut down dozens of European airports and caused chaos for travelers in the continent, he said “Experience shows that the need for good communications with a reliable source dramatically escalates, usually without warning.”
“Many of our clients were left stranded, and we had to charted buses and ferries to move them, which took a lot of coordination of different travel services that we don’t normally use.”
Jacqui Timmins of Travelscene American Express was quick to agree. “Over the last year, we’ve seen travel plans disrupted by plane groundings, ash clouds, floods, radiation leaks, riots – the list is endless.”
“It’s been a very difficult year, but at the same time we have been able to demonstrate the tangible benefits of using a licensed, experienced travel agent,” she explained.
So should we always book with travel agents? That’s entirely up to you of course. Holiday disasters are rare, but when things do go wrong, if you did use an agent you’ll be extremely glad to have someone capable who can help you out.