I talked of Holiday Planning and how it tends to get fused into Booking every time you go out and *buy* a holiday package. So let’s talk about what holiday planning really gives you.
Since I’ll be talking a lot about a Holiday Itinerary, it is essential to first explain what it is and what importance it holds in your holiday. A holiday is made up of different components:
3. Activities & Things to do
4. Ancillary things like meals, travel insurance, visa, etc.
5. Specialist products like Cruise etc.
A holiday is basically an aggregation of every other travel product out there. Do see my post “It’s Complicated” to know what makes a holiday.
While these components form the building blocks of a holiday, for a traveler they make little sense in isolation. Hence the need for an itinerary. These same components when put in a chronological timeline format create an itinerary. The timeline in this case corresponds to the timeline of your holiday. It maps out everything you would be doing on your holiday starting with your departure from your home, your travel to your destination, your transfers, hotel stays each night, activities & things you would do everyday, your return et all. Just like it takes a master craftsmen to create that perfect 3-piece suit or that mouthwatering dessert, it takes skill, patience and craftsmanship to craft the perfect holiday itinerary since chances of any two itineraries being exactly the same are slim.
Picking a flight or a hotel in isolation is much easier. Picking up combinations of them, matching them with transfers, meals and things you would do or could do is much harder, especially since every itinerary has its own unique constraints (like budget, time available, Visa issues, etc.) and is highly influenced by who is travelling (the likes and preferences of each of the travellers and their backgrounds). And since this is hard work, most companies would rather sell standardized itineraries (a la burgers at McDonald’s) than take the pains to craft them individually (do read Why We Love Group Travel).
Creating this personalized holiday itinerary and everything else which goes behind it is what we call Holiday Planning. And this is what we do.
But no Planning is done in isolation of the budget you have set aside to spend on your holiday. And hence, the price of each of these components plays a important role. Apart from the niche Luxury Traveller, everyone seeks value in their holiday no matter how much they may spend – whether Rs 5,000 or Rs 15 Lacs. Price is therefore a important constraint to work within and communicate transparently. If you read my previous post on Why We Love Group Travel you would realize why quoting a single price point for a package is the standard practice of virtually every holiday company out there. But at WeAreHolidays, we feel quoting a single price point is bad for us and bad for you.
It is bad for you since it hides much more than it reveals. It hides the cost of individual components (different flights, transfers, hotels, meals, activities / things to do, insurance, etc.) and hence stifles your right to add/delete any components or be able to upgrade or downgrade any hotels/cars/flight class/etc. in a meaningful, informed way. You are always dependent on your travel planner (or seller in most cases) to make the changes and inform you of the incremental price changes. And most sellers take you for a ride here. Further, the price also hides the margins and commissions the travel company itself wants to earn from you and hence the hesitation in a transparent break-out. The moment the break-up starts happening the skeletons would tumble out of the cupboard. Would you be able to sleep peacefully if you realized the travel agent was charging you Rs 25,000 per person for your Greece honeymoon (that’s Rs 50,000 for a couple!) and that too for not “planning” but “selling” you your honeymoon packages?
And it’s bad for us since it inhibits hard work and craftsmanship. It makes us lazy. By breaking out each component and transparently quoting its price we paint ourselves in a corner. Armed with this information you can easily compare each component and see if we’re quoting you more than what you would be able to find on your own for that particular component. Since we know this is important to you, it pushes our Contracting team to constantly seek out Suppliers & Partners who deliver value to our customers and are not in there to make a quick buck. Second, it forces us to intricately balance the bucket of components in your holiday itinerary in a way that it does due justice to your budget, the time you have at hand and your likes/dislikes and personal preferences. We can’t hide behind veils anymore. And it’s good to be in such a situation.
But something seems amiss. If everything is so open, how do we earn money then? Well, we ask you to pay us. We charge a flat fee for planning your holiday (to sustain ourselves). We don’t push you to book through us since we don’t work on hidden markups or commission payments from suppliers. You’re free to book from wherever you get the best price or are comfortable booking. We’re content with our nominal planning fee. But hypothetically, if you were to ask us to book your holiday, we charge a flat booking fee to cover our operational expenses to manage the booking. And we’re quite transparent about these flat charges.
And that’s why I say Planning is in the details. It lies in the details of the personalized itinerary created for you. In the details of each component in that itinerary. In the details of the transparent break-out of each component’s price. In the details of the subtle power it hands you to dictate terms of your holiday. It truly empowers you.