| Originally Posted by TA Jennifer |
Let's see if I can help-
I've noticed and have spoke with other travel agents (to confirm that I wasn't losing it LOL!) about how the group rates seem to be creeping steadily higher and many times are higher than individual rates.Individual booking rates may be best ( depends on resort, time of year and how many traveling, plus if there are specials) and the amenities for the groups seem to be dwindling.
Quite often the group rates may be higher, but the advantage is that as long as everyone pays their deposit within the timeframe- they are all paying the same rate. The bride & groom can also place deposits for stragglers- thus guaranteeing them the same rate as everyone else.
Individual bookings may be less , but as travel pricing is fluid (sometimes changing right in the middle of a booking) some of the guests may pay less, some more. And of course as availability lessens the price goes up- I don't think you can hold your TA responsible for your guests procrastinating. The suppliers (whether they are through a TA or an online agency such as Expedia ect) base the price on how many rooms are in their inventory and are constantly adjusting to get the best ROI. The airlines also operate this way and typically group air is more expensive ( although again not always).
Many of the suppliers will only allow 1 date deviation from a group- it all depends on what the hotel policies are, whether you have charter, bulk or published air and again time of year!
What I do is look at all of the factors present and then make the recommendation to the bride & groom. I've had times where group rates are amazing with great charter air and then times where I've recommended individual rates- it really is a case by case basis. When I do individual rates- it may take me a bit to get back to the guests ( normally it may be a day or two at most) as I check with several suppliers to be sure I am offering the best value- ie flights, hotel & transfers. There are also suppliers who are typically less $$ than the ones I use. However I know that they have zero customer service and the rooms they contract with the resort are lousy- thus the cheap price.
As an example- I may have a price of $XXX.XX with flights that have a do-able layover, two hours on the way out - 3 hours on the way back. This is along the east coast in the spring, I know that the guests more than likely will encounter delays during travel due to bad thunderstorms so I want to be sure they have enough time to make the connections. I also check to see that the flights on the way home leave at a reasonable hour as there is an hour and a half drive back to the airport from the resort- they need to check in at least 3 hours early as security can be really slow at this destination so an 8am flight home means that they are leaving the resort at the latest at 3am- yuk! My flights leave at 1pm.
Guests goes to the internet and finds a price on orbitz that is $100.00 less. The kicker is the layover on the way out is 49 minutes- a perfectly legal connection, however the chances of making it are very slim and none if there is a delay! The way back the flights leave at 8am ( I know -you saw that coming!) Oh yeah- they didn't notice that transfers were included in my price but not in the online package.
So the typical story goes- there was a delay due to weather, they missed the connection, next flight out is full and they will need to wait till the next day. The airline won't put them up at a hotel as it was a weather delay that caused the missed connection. After a 20 minute hold with online agency they are disconnected .....call back another 20 minutes to be told they need to deal directly with airline. Stay at airport hotel for $100.00 - food at hotel cost another $35.00 for dinner ( and if it was me another $50.00 in martini's , ) get on am flight the next day, arrive at airport to spend another $50.00 on transfers. Find out their ocean view room was given away and they are now downgraded to look over the dumpster ( I may be laying it on a bit thick but troll the internet you'll find dozens of stories like this!) but they can't check in until 4pm.
That may not happen all of the time but it happens often enough! The point of my story is travel should not be all about price- a good travel agent brings experience, expertise and knowledge to the equation. Yes, sometimes we are a bit more than online- but it's not because we are trying to gouge our clients- it's because in the big picture we are recommending the best value! Most often though I find I bring a great value and a lower price!
That's a great example for people wondering about booking online or using a TA, I think you said it perfectly!