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Travel Bookings – Who Needs an Agent Anymore?

With the availability of a wealth of information on the internet nowadays, one can easily research, plan and book your holidays from the comfort of your home. But this isn’t news of course. What is changing is the way people are getting their information and making their bookings.

Travel Research

There are various types of information with which one can get a complete and objective idea of their destination online, including:

  • Ratings and reviews from actual travelers on travel portals
  • Blogs and forums from seasoned travellers, discussing specific topics
  • ‘Insider’ photos and videos
  • Satellite imagery and interactive maps, to assess proximity to beaches, attractions, restaurants etc.
  • Opinions from contacts on social networking sites, where credibility of the reviews are probably the highest

These are some of the resources travelers are turning to in order to gauge the vacation options that best suit their budget and taste. This results in a much more informed traveller, and more information means better preparedness, in turn maximizing the enjoyment of your holiday.

Travel Booking

With this information at hand, the traveler can then book services such as flights, hotels, and tours directly with service providers, which has several benefits as mentioned below. This challenges the need for a middleman or agency, even online agencies, where the value addition is questionable. This is especially relevant in recent times where almost all operators in the tourism industry are offering their services directly to the public through their online channel.

The advantages of booking directly with service providers include:

  • Lower cost, since there’s no commissions or fees to be paid by the provider or the customer to the middleman.
  • Removal of bias – Middlemen will naturally tend to favor those providers that offer the highest commissions in the market, and may skew perceptions of the service offering/quality accordingly.
  • More and more hotels, airlines and services offer the best deals (even a best price guarantee) when booking directly with the provider itself.
  • Increased reliability, since the confirmation is directly with the service provider; there is no additional agency interface to deal with, with the possibility of loss in communication between the agency and the service provider.
  • Less cost and risk in terms of cancellations and modifications – in a lot of the cases the middleman will charge additional ‘processing fees’ for alterations to an itinerary.
  • Favorable payment terms – Most agencies require upfront payment, whereas you could have the option of paying at the completion of the service when dealing with the provider directly (e.g. car hire, hotels)

So the only thing that remains is to source the best information out there, and while disparate sites and blogs can be found easily on the internet, credibility should be judged to ensure that it isn’t the provider themselves throwing up their establishment, or worse still, a competitor unfairly knocking the operator. Once this is done, making the booking itself becomes a simple administrative task, and you can be rest assured that your decision was made under the right combination of accurate information, lowest cost and minimal risk.

Handicap Accessible Tips & Hints For Catalina Island, California

Catalina Island is 22 miles off the coast of Long Beach, California, the island is 75 square miles and the only city located on the island is Avalon. The only vehicle allowed on the streets of Avalon is golf carts, and that works just fine as most restaurants, shops and attractions are within what are considered walking distance.

As always there are exceptions to every rule and that is good for wheelchair users as there are wheelchair accessible cabs and the Island Hopper tram. Located around town there are several courtesy taxi phones and the tram has regular routes through town.

Arranging your travel to the island you want to take Catalina Channel Express and it runs out of Long Beach and San Pedro. There is handicap parking available at both locations and boarding is also accessible, the newer boats are VERY accessible, and all boats are accessible. As with all travel these days there are luggage requirements so be sure and get acquainted with those when you make your travel reservations. This is where a personal travel website agent becomes valuable, as they will be able to handle these fine details for you. There is also a service to the island from Newport Beach, however, there isn’t handicap parking and the ramp to and from the boat is very steep, so this service is basically un-accessible for wheelchairs or challenged walkers.

Where to stay on the island, Pavillion Lodge is just 14 steps from the beach and really close to the boat pier, and located close to the downtown area of Avalon. It has a large courtyard for relaxing and sunning. There are wheelchair accessible rooms on the ground floor with roll in showers. I have stayed here and it is very convenient and works very well.

This is a quaint pedestrian style island and it is basically handicap/accessible friendly which is wonderful as when towns and areas tend to be quaint, it restricts mobility drastically for the physically challenged. If you can get in a golf cart, they are rented by the hour(s) and the day and that will make the island even more accessible for you. Most of the tours are not accessible so that is why a golf cart would work the best if you can use one.

Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden is accessible, with assistance, as it is sloping and rocky, so you may want to check this out to see if it would be accessible for you. The Art Deco Casino Theatre has a ramp. The Casino Ballroom has an elevator. Catalina Museum is accessible.

Events that happen on the island are accessible: The Catalina Festival of Art (September) is on Crescent Street along the beach. The Catalina Jazz Trax Festival (Fall) is in the Casino Ballroom. The News Eve Gala is in the Casino Ballroom. So make your reservations with your Travelling with Disabilities Travel Agent, pack your bags for an adventure of fun and relaxation, not to mention the clean air and marvellous weather.

Airport of Tomorrow: The Future of Air Travel Is Truly Mobile!

I don’t know about you, but I always have at least one mobile device on me at all times, whether it is my smartphone, laptop or iPad, I’m always connected so am always up to date with news, emails and of course Facebook. As you can tell, I love my gadgets. So you can imagine my excitement at the idea of airlines and airports using all my favorite gizmos and social platforms to improve and personalize my travel experience – and I don’t mean just having a twitter account or Facebook page. I’m talking RFID bag tagging and roaming airline representatives dispensing up to the minute information about my delayed flight with the help of their tablet computer. Yes indeed, there are some very exciting times ahead!

Personal mobile technology is increasingly becoming an essential part of every day life, travelers are finally ready to take the leap towards a better and more seamless travel experience. And as airlines and airports continue to embrace the possibilities and solutions these technology advances provide, services will become more efficient as well as personalized, further improving customer satisfaction. By harnessing the power of mobile channels to communicate service disruptions, airlines may not totally eliminate customer stress levels, but can greatly reduce them.

The transformation of mobile technology from the 1980′s to 2011 has been incredible with today’s average smartphone being more powerful than the super computers of the 1970′s. Today’s traveler expects to have instant access to information, which is why mobile devices are increasingly becoming the main platform people use to communicate and connect, and with the arrival of the tablet computer, the trend continues to intensify.

So what kind of technologies should you expect over the next decade, or better yet what will we see within the next 5 years? Think wide spread mobile ticketing! Goodbye paper boarding passes and hello efficient seamless mobile processing. And still better yet, Near Field Communication archways that detect mobile devices and automatically check passengers in as they pass through. And who doesn’t love personalized deals and promotions? Well what if your favorite restaurant or shop could deliver promotions specifically tailored to you straight to your mobile – going to Jamaica, here’s a discount on sunglasses! And we haven’t even covered augmented reality that will see you effortlessly navigating your way to your departure gate, the nearest toilets or even the best place for a good cup of coffee in the terminal.

The Navigating the Airport of Tomorrow report (Authored by Norm Rose of Travel Tech Consulting Inc.) covers all of these exciting technologies and identifies the possible technological solutions to common passengers woes, and even touches on the exciting technologies to be implemented in the next 5-10 years that will have a significant impact on the travel experience.

The future of air travel is just around the corner and I can’t wait!