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Time to make pocket-friendly travel plans

Travel agents and apps make holidaying a breeze.
Travel agents and apps make holidaying a breeze.  

A couple of years back, a colleague who wanted to travel out of the country was referred to a travel agent by someone from the office. She needed one to help her book a flight to the US.

Somehow, she didn’t have the agent’s direct contact making tracing him an uphill task. To save on time, she opted to shop around for a ticket on her own.

However, at the last minute, just when she was about to pay for what she thought was a good deal, the travel agent rang her.

“The agent requested me not pay for the ticket. He instead asked me to give him time to check around for additional offers with the promise that he would get back to me with something better than what I already had,” she said.

When he finally got back to her, he had good news. “He got me a ticket that was several hundreds of dollars less than what I would have bought,” she exclaimed. Since then, she says, she has always used the services of a travel agent whenever she wants to travel.

According to her “it takes the stress of spending countless hours scouring for travel sites that may not yield much. Since this is their job, agents know exactly who has good deals and when.”

Such is the experience of millions of travellers around the world who often get caught up in the complexities of organising for trips.

Many travellers agree that it’s frustrating to get things together on your own. For instance, many of the travel agents take care not only of getting you a cheaper ticket, but they also take care of travel visa applications using websites they are familiar with.

With Easter looming large, many people will be travelling within the country and outside. That’s why we decided to look at certain things that have revolutionised travelling and made it much easier for people.

Websites and travel applications are some of the tools travellers are now using to ease their experiences.

Magical Skies, EatOut, SleepOut.co.ke are local examples of websites that have made travel much easier for Kenyans.

Established in 2012 by former Kenya Airways commercial manager Mohan Chandra, Magical Skies serves to seal gaps in tourism by creating safari packages that enable travellers to look, book and pay online for whatever travel and accommodation services they seek.

“The old method of booking and finding information about Kenya has been difficult to the extent that some tourists got discouraged about visiting the country,” says Mohan. This website, in a way, saves people the hustle of researching online for hours or days on the best accommodation, flight or destination.

Magical Skies has consolidated information and deals on safari, flights, hotels, rail journey, car rentals and medical packages into a one-stop-shop.

Customers using the service can easily compare airfares and access all airline schedules from the site. “Plus we have over 150,000 hotels worldwide for our clients to choose from depending on their destination,” adds Mohan.

GPS enabled smart phones and Dash2do are also some of the new technologies which ease travel experiences; especially for business clients who want to find their direction around cities or  with the latter, get things done in time amid their busy schedules.

Dash2do is a technology-driven online concierge and personal service.  The tool helps busy people both in Kenya and abroad get things done in the shortest time possible.

Customers sign up for the service online, top up their account via mobile money or credit card. The booking is then made for a job that needs to be done and the message sent to dashers who pick it up and run whatever errand a customer wants run.

It’s hustle-free. This means one doesn’t have to worry about getting an extra shirt for the next meeting should your luggage not arrive at your destination on time. The dashers will go out and get you another shirt as you carry on with your business meetings.

Travel agents exist mainly for clients who are technology-shy and those who just want someone else to take care of their travel arrangements, for instance company executives.

Sarah and Simon Kabu, co-founders of Bonfire Adventures tours and travel agency, are one in a list of several travel agents in the country. The company handles both local and internationals trips for clients, including business travels to China, Dubai and Turkey.

“We organise travel plans for clients, right from flight booking, airport transfers, hotel booking, to sightseeing. So we become a one-stop-shop where clients buy everything at a discounted price because we have a big purchasing power,” says Sarah.

According to Simon, they are always able to get clients the best travel deals because they buy in large volumes. In addition, the agency also advises clients on services that add value to their trip and direct them to hotels where they can get good value for their money.

“We also advice clients on the security situation of the destination, natural calamity should there be any, we are able to organise travel itinerary and assist in visa processing,” adds Simon.

Travel agents are familiar with hotel services in most destinations. This gives them an upper hand in offering guidance on the best accommodation or entertainment spots in particular cities for travellers.

“We act as a bridge. Our objective is to make sure the client enjoys their travel and stay. We offer them choices and when they are happy, they will definitely come back and also refer new clients,” explains Simon.

Among the choices open to clients are comparisons in airline fares, hotel selections and discounted offers. Agents not only help clients to save time by avoiding unnecessary hustles but also make travelling fun, especially for first time travellers.

Leisure

Sarah and Simon learnt the importance of travel coordination when they were starting out several years back. The two wasted time on unplanned travels looking for clients. “We would hire taxies while on visits abroad but the drivers would take advantage of us because we did not know our destinations well.

Soon, we realised that it was possible to avoid being take literally for a ride if everything was organised for us beforehand,” Sarah says recalling her first time experience in South Africa.

The services of a travel agent are not limited to foreign travels, but also to local excursions. Locals can still use travel agents for business or leisure travel around the country in order to take advantage of deals which sometimes cost half the rates that a walk-in client would pay for hotel or safari packages.

“Even for us, when we want to travel to Mombasa, we often make sure everything is organised before we leave Nairobi,” says Sarah. 

They advise Kenyans to plan early for vacations. “Everyone earning anything from Sh20,000 a month can afford to spend seven nights in a four-star hotel in Mombasa. If paid early, this would only cost Sh30, 000 and this is inclusive of all meals and drinks,” says Sarah.

Low season is the best time to take advantage of these special deals since the rates are more pocket friendly.  But one needs to plan their annual leave early to take advantage of such opportunities.

As you ponder where to go for your Easter break, use an agent to help you out. And this weekend,

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