The prices might be low online, but the risks can be scarily high. Book through a tour operator instead, and you'll get great value, security and expertise at your fingertips – here's why
You can organise everything from flights to dinner reservations online – so why bother asking (and paying) a tour operator to do it for you?
Clive Stacey, Managing Director and co-founder of Discover the World – one of the UK's leading specialist tour operators – reveals the hidden benefits that booking through a tour operator can bring.
Tour operators' travel specialists are usually nationals of the countries they sell, have lived there, or have travelled extensively in them. They'll have in-depth knowledge of destinations, will have thoroughly researched trip itineraries, and will aim to get you away from the hordes.
No computer can deal with the complexities of a tailor-made holiday, but experienced travel consultants know the ins and outs of the hotels, excursions, what to pack, and even the road conditions.
Contrary to popular belief, it is often cheaper to book through a tour operator than it is to organise everything yourself. Established tour operators will have long-standing relationships with their partners so not only will we secure rooms at busy times, but we'll also get the best rates and very often special offers.
In the unlikely event you should find the same arrangement elsewhere at a lower price, most companies will do their best to improve on it.
A key benefit of booking with a UK-based specialist operator is that you are covered by stringent travel industry regulations, which means that all money paid for your holiday arrangements is fully protected.
Booking holidays (Shutterstock)
Once you have booked a holiday with many of the good specialists, there will be no further increases, regardless of what happens with currency exchange rates, world oil prices and taxes.
If you are prevented from travelling on your holiday due to situations beyond your control, most professional tour ops will do their best to make alternative arrangements and, if this is not acceptable, provide a full refund for all services booked through them.
The more complex a trip is, the more potential there is for things to go wrong – and the impact could be devastating. For example, let’s say you have booked your flights, a car and a string of hotels on various different websites. You arrive at the airport only to find that the airline has gone on strike and you are unable to fly. Alternative flights are either sky high in price or fully booked.
What do you do? The fact is you are now very much on your own – with a good chance of losing a great deal of money. Had you booked with a tour operator the problem would have been sorted out for you and if alternative arrangements could not be found, you would have been entitled to a full and prompt refund.
Having the back up of a group of professionals who know how to get problems sorted out is tremendously reassuring – and the small premium you might pay for the services of a specialist tour operator represents enormously good value.
And don't forget, organising a trip through a tour operator doesn't necessarily mean travelling with a group in tow. Tailor-made trips are designed by you – so the ins and outs of a holiday are up to you.
Clive Stacey is Managing Director and Co-founder of one of the UK's leading specialist tour operators, Discover the World.