Today I heard of yet another company revamped and most likely bought out by a larger mega corporation in efforts to survive the travel industry’s decline since the early 2000’s and company oversaturation. GAP Adventures is now G Adventures, Imaginative Traveler now only exists as a brand name and is operated by Gecko and promoted through Adventure Center under a management company TUI, and all of the standards such as Trafalgar, Brendan and Uniworld are operated under a company called TravCorp.
Don’t get me wrong, each of these companies do have trips worth looking at. What I am saying is that if you want specialized travel with quality customer service and value savings than try calling a niche travel company. If you do your homework, ask around and choose a small travel company wisely the quality of your travel can be greatly enhanced.
What are the advantages of booking a trip with a small independent “boutique” travel agency?
The number one advantage to you as the customer is that a niche travel company will give you what you want. When you call a larger corporation owned subsidiary you are offered only the products that they endorse. You fight tooth and nail to get anything else and custom is often not done well or price competitive although many large companies now offer tailor-made. This is because companies and vendors cut deals in order for both to survive and this does not always mean it’s the best deal you can get.
The second advantage to contacting a niche travel company is destination and industry knowledge. A smaller company is founded with a particular region and a more specific market in mind. If you are looking for a trek in Nepal you are not going to call Pleasant Hawaii! Even calling large companies does not guarantee that the agent on the other end knows Nepal. Country knowledge is huge and a must in selling travel. Knowing the industry is also compulsory. Different age groups need to travel in different styles. If the travel company you call only offers or endorses certain products, than it is not satisfying your needs. There are far too many travel companies to choose from. Word of mouth is always the best.
You may say, “but the company has been around for years”. Yet another reason to call a niche travel company. I have seen this in the last 16 years of my travel industry experience where although drastic efforts are taken to revise or modernize the company the times have changed and it’s impossible to change the spots on a leopard. Large travel groups are no longer “in”, the trend is toward small group travel or custom tours. People want authentic experiences and to be a part of the culture which means that the old travel style of looking at a culture does not work.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked advantages is no large overhead. Niche travel companies are often started by travel professionals who have been in travel for many years and have grown tired of seeing the client make do with a trip because of loyalty to a company or an agent. Large corporations need larger revenue and this does not always translate in money savings to you. A good travel professional who operates a niche company can get you the product in any price range that you want and can often save you money by spending more time researching the array of products which best suit you.
Bottom line is that when you book with a small niche travel company you have more options of products, specialized destination and industry knowledge, up to date product styles to choose from and an agent who will go that extra mile for you in service and finding you savings. Happy traveling!