Thursday, August 11, 2011

An Australian Cruise Travel Agent Fires Back. A Luxury Travel Agent Responds.

Last week I wrote an article about why Seabourn's new Australian sales and support office may sound like news, but to me it doesn't mean much for the Australian cruise consumer today and, possibly, it won't mean much for a couple of years.

Just as I have clientèle around the world I also have readers around the world…including, ironically, some travel agents in Australia.  One of those travel agents wrote me a very polite, but very candid, email protesting that I implied that Australian travel agents cannot sell luxury cruises and that I must, somehow, be nervous about losing my Australian clientèle, siting her claimed success at selling another luxury cruise line Silversea, which is another fine product I sell. 

What I actually said was, “Looking at the present day Australian market, we all know that there are only a few travel agencies that are actually experienced with cruise holidays.  This lack of competition and competence does not bode well for the present day Australian consumer in the area of Price, Information or Service.”  That is, for now, the truth and does not even touch on whether those experienced in selling mainstream cruise holidays have the experience and expertise to properly sell luxury cruises....which is a markedly different product. 

This travel agent did go on to describe a number of issues that Australian travel agents present have in relation to problems with payments, delays with documentation, etc., that Goldring Travel does not have, but then commented, Surely you don’t begrudge we cruise specialists in Australia a slice of our own action?”

So am I to understand that you, the cruising public, are to use a travel agent that presently doesn’t have the experience or expertise or customer service (or, possibly, pricing) simply because they are of a particular nationality?    Honestly, if you find an Australian travel agent that provides you what I do, or near enough to what I do, you should consider booking with them.  As I said, there are a few out there…but as of yet there are not many.  Competition is what business is about and something that I encourage, because competing fairly and properly results in the consumer getting the best experience.

And to be absolutely transparent about this, Goldring Travel is not the travel agency you want to use if you are planning a Princess or P&O Cruise because my expertise simply does not lie in that area.  There are travel agents better qualified to assist you with that sort of cruise.  If a travel agency tells you they are experts in all aspects of travel I would be very cautious.  Again, there are a limited few that actually are...and then you need to have the right agent within the agency!

Now let me deal with the polite slap that I am allegedly concerned about losing my clients.  That is easy:  My clients use me because I provide them with excellent service and excellent pricing; not because I am American or used to live in Brisbane, Australia.  They use me because if there is a question or a problem I have the professional expertise and have earned (through hard work and cooperative efforts) direct contacts to the people at Seabourn that are needed to effectively and efficiently address them. 

But at the heart of the problem with that claim is that my relationship with my clients – Australian or otherwise - is personal.  If I actually did have a concern I would pick up the telephone and call them.  Or they can call me on my local Brisbane telephone number:  07 3102 4685.  No, I do not write my blog articles to keep my Australian business.  I keep and grow my business by being the best luxury travel agent I can be.

And as for leaving a slice of the business for Australian cruise specialists, I guess I could ask the same be done for me.  But then again, I thought it my obligation to satisfy your needs and my goal is to do it better than anyone else.  As the old E.F. Hutton advertisement used to say, “We make (travel business) the old fashioned way.  We earn it.”

All I can do is be appreciative of every opportunity I am given to earn your business and to say, “Thank You” for that…and to do it before you even have a reason to thank me...and then make your experience one that makes you feel like you are booked on the best cruise for you because you have been given all the information and service you desire.  Fair Dinkum!