Online bookings versus Travel Agencies – the big debate

A few years ago I had the worst experience using an online website to book flights and transfers for an overseas trip. Ironically, I didn’t actually use the website. I phoned the offices of the company, Travelstart, and dealt with their agents. I had real email threads and phone conversations but the people used the system to book everything and, suffice to say, it was a disaster. I’m one of those horrible people who uses the internet for almost everything. From grocery shopping to getting Dischem items – if I can find a way to do the transaction online, I will.

However, I will not use online travel booking sites again after my horrible experience. I think if we chat about the before and after “the incident” experience, I have a very different view on the role of travel agents. There is something rather comforting about knowing you have access to another human being when things go wrong. You can speak to them, panic and nine times out of ten you’re dealing with an actual human rather than filling in online forms and sending emails. I’ve also found that it makes my life far more easier because if I have specific requests or needs, they can fulfil those. Online forms, not so much.

Which brings me to Cloud Travel

5 tech travel trends

In January this year I was attempting to put together a special trip for Player 2 and I. I asked on Twitter for travel agent suggestions and was told to chat to Cloud Travel. I sent them a mail with all my ridiculous requirements and what I’d been able to find on my own. They came back and informed me the one airline I was looking at had actually been grounded and our potential flight would be cancelled – they took over everything else, came back with really competitive rates and we booked. We ended up having a super holiday.

When I was announced as General Manager for Team South Africa for the Overwatch World Cup, Jenitte, from Cloud Travel dropped me a mail. It turned out she had some links to South African esports and Overwatch. At no cost she helped put together the initial quote so we had a target for crowd funding. She followed up with me almost every week to see if she could assist with anything. The service was unmatched and we hadn’t even spent any money! Cloud Travel offered to drop their own commission as much as possible to make the trip a reality. She emailed me at one point, suggesting we take the risk and book flights as soon as possible as she’d been watching them and did not believe we’d get them at a better price. I trusted her and did so. I’m so relieved I did – the team is flying on Emirates, which is a good airline, and we were able to shave off a considerable amount of money off the cost. Had we of not booked at that price I can guarantee we’d not have had the funds to fly to the World Cup.

Personal use

Travelstart worst service

While Jenitte and the team have been phenomenal with the World Cup team, they’ve also been super with my own needs. One of the things I’ve always been lax with is travel insurance. I realised this recently and decided to contact Jenitte about whether she could help. The team immediately responded with a very well priced option that is extremely comprehensive and useful if you travel as much as I do. The insurance covers flight delays, lost baggage, medical costs when traveling and a HOST of other options to assist. A few weeks ago, three hours before flying to Berlin, I realised I completely forgot to book insurance. In a panic, at 7:30pm in the evening, I dropped an email to the team and they’d arranged my insurance before 8pm. Service like that isn’t available from an online booking form.

My point?

Travelstart worst service

I might call myself Tech Girl, I might love everything technology related but old school travel agents are a God send if you travel a lot, like me, or have a very specific need. There is no way we would have got the pricing and assistance we needed for Overwatch World Cup from online booking systems – Cloud Travel have assisted with really good flights (cheap but also on a good airline because the flights are LOOOONG), accommodation close to the venue that is affordable and even transport options for getting around. My own personal experiences have been super as well. I’m travelling old school for the foreseeable future!

Disclosure: Cloud Travel did help with our Overwatch World Cup bookings and they get all my personal business, that I pay for. So there wasn’t an exchange here nor did they know I was writing this post. 


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