By Lilian Gaitho
Online booking sites are becoming the norm rather than the exception. With the internet of things spiraling to every last aspect of living; getting your vacation stay has become a one step find on the right click. Companies such as Expedia, Jumia Travel, Trip Advisor and a myriad others, big, medium or emerging are becoming the go-to for any savvy traveler. However, like any other invention, OTAs come with their special challenges. Here is a short list of factors and tips you need to look out for when choosing your OTA.
#1 Speed of Communication
Automated responses, robotic recordings and eternally engaged ‘direct’ lines are some of the things that can drive anyone crazy while trying to reach any travel agent. Unanswered calls and messages, mails that no one seems to notice as well as agents who appear in a rush when explaining their products/services should be marked red on your list of reliable OTAs.
#2 A Listening, Diverse Partner
It’s not uncommon to find out that your favorite hotel, or preferred airline is already fully booked on your intended travel dates. A well-versed agent has an alternative to almost every last option. It’s their business to know what other airlines are scheduled to fly within your time brackets, how long the alternative train route will take and what other hotels in your destination match your primary option in standards, ambiance and attitude.
#3 That Buy-and-Fly Magic
Last minute deals and packages seem to be growing their fame with every new season; local companies such as Jumia Travel have already introduced packages in response to a growing demand. But nothing beats a good bargain off your usual value pack. A great agent understands that in order for you to come back on repeat trips and make his commissions, he must entice you and buy your loyalty with great savings. Always make a point of raising the ‘deal’ question with your OTA, at least, they should be able to direct you where the grass is greener on their platform!
#4 A Master of Sticky Itineraries
From multi-stop overs across continents, to three different car hire and numerous airport transfers; a sticky itinerary can go from hectic to a horrible mess if handed to the wrong agent. Before you settle on their service, discuss in detail your plan of travel and ask all the tough questions. It is the very reason a fee is attached!
#5 Stranger to Lone-ranger
No matter how impeccably planned, any trip can go wrong in the most unexpected of styles. Take for instance delayed or canceled flights, not-so-friendly weather patterns, change in hotel menu, losing directions and nosy strangers on the conveyor and lounge areas. The most comforting thought during such ordeals would be that you are not entirely alone; your good and faithful agent can be reached to work his magic at any point of your trip and holiday. Ensure that all information on reachability, consultation and related tidbits is well outlined before signing any agreement. Think of this as the OTA’s after-sale service; a vital facet of any growing industry.
#6 Records and History
Say no to gentleman’s agreement when it’s your dream trip on the line. You may have known your agent since they were toddlers, but the world knows anything that can go wrong could go amiss. Your agent should not hesitate to capture any phone and verbal exchanges on email to avoid discrepancies and miscommunication. Also, ensure that all payments are well receipted and any future refunds or expected claims well documented.