The internet changed the way we live and travel. From paying bills to booking flights, the web has made “almost” everything better. But has it done the same for snow travel?
Sure, we can see real time snow conditions via web cams and social media but what about booking a full blown snow holiday? While many spend hours and hours researching every element of their snow journey to the minute detail, booking flights, hotels, transfers, tickets on separate sites others prefer the convenience and knowledge of snow specialist travel agents.
Yes we realise this already sounds like an ad for ski specialists, but it’s not. The truth is, many resorts host travel agents on what the industry terms as “famils.” This means the resort shows off their best so travel agents have first hand and local experience of everything on offer and can then pass that on to you.
“The internet provides a very cookie-cutter ski package with separate bookings for accommodation, flights, lift tickets. But a ski holiday is much more than that!” says Lucy Wales, Marketing Manager for Skimax Holidays.
“Working with a ski travel specialist enables you to create a tailor-made snow experience, using their first-hand knowledge.”
A generic travel site that doesn’t understand ski and snow can’t do that.
So we asked Australia’s best known ski specialists why skiers and snowboarders should book through specialists rather than tough it out on their own. Some reasons are obvious, I mean, we did ask specialists to tell us why to use them after all, but others are pleasantly surprising for those who think booking direct is the only way to save money.
Guaranteed exchange rate saves you dollars
Beware the crumbling dollar. Since April alone, the AUD has weakened against the JPY by 6 percent. So if you haven’t paid your hotel yet or simply handed over your credit card to secure the accommodation nights, then you’re in for a nasty surprise when your card is charged.
“Often when people book accommodation online, they will pay directly once they are at the property, which means they are subject to any currency fluctuations that may happen from the time that they book, to the time that they pay in the local currency” says Jarred Dowson, directed of Mint Tours.
“This can make a serious dent to your holiday spending money. By booking with a travel agent, you protect yourself from these currency fluctuations as we lock in the currency rate when you book, so there’s no nasty surprises.”
General Manager of MySnow Holidays, Daniel Walker, says “I have seen customers being changed 3-4% difference in exchange rates plus 2% international credit card fees, plus the hotels own credit card fees. For me, paying an additional 6-8% on my holiday would leave a sour taste in my mouth”.
They’re accredited so you’re protected
Look for the AFTA and IATA accreditation and ensure the agency you work with adhere to the ATAS Charter and Code of Conduct which means you’re protected. Always.
They have deals the internet doesn’t
Contrary to the popular myth that using a ski specialist will cost you more, few know that ski specialists can actually save you money thanks to their connections.
Convenience is king
Life is busy and outsourcing has become a popular option to keep stress at bay. Having one point of contact to book everything for you from flights to accommodation, lift passes, lessons, guides, adventures and activities, travel insurance and more means you don’t have to waste hours of your time.
They’ll save you when you’re in trouble
“Because of our relationships with in-resort personnel we can handle all things that come up during your stay” says Skimax Holidays Managing Director Rodney Muller.
When things go wrong due to weather and cancelled flights, personal accidents, natural disaster, if you book through a ski specialist then you have someone who’s got your back to reschedule the lot while you’re on the road.
“It is really easy to book the wrong flight, miss a transfer because you haven’t allowed enough time or arrive at a hotel and realise that you have booked the wrong dates” says Luke Pritchard from MySnow Holidays of the challenges of booking yourself.
“When you book with a ski specialist, they already know the best flights to meet a transfer and how much time to allow at different airports. You get the support of inside information.”
Free advice from those in the snow
“Buying a ski holiday for the family can be the cost of a new car. Would you buy a new car without talking to a car dealer? No way! You use them for free advice and make sure they get you a great deal. If it is not the best deal, you go somewhere else” says Walker.
Snow consultants are trained experts, they have first hand knowledge of destinations and they have the networks and the booking technology to get you into places the internet can’t.
“Do you want to be stumbling distance of the bars and ski-in-ski-out or schlepping miles in ski boots to your accommodation in the next town” asks Gabbi Mueller, Reservation Supervisor for Skimax Holidays. “Talk to a ski specialist to get a real feel of the village atmosphere because we’ve been there, we have the lay of the land.”
Most snow specialists have relationships with local guides, restaurants even ski pros and athletes. They can get you access you don’t even know about.
“Our team live and breathe ski – and have collectively travelled to a huge amount of ski and snowboarding resorts worldwide, so we can provide the most suitable recommendations to tailor your ski trip” says Toby Withers from Travelplan Australia, dedicated ski and snow travel agents.
“We have connections with over 60 ski resorts worldwide and have been operating exclusively in the snow world for almost 50 years.”
As the crew at Melbourne based Mogul Ski World say “You cannot Google our experience and knowledge and if you do book online it is transactional not personable.”