Don’t assume everyone appreciates cultural differences, warns David Walker aka The Travel Snob, a homeworker for Not Just Travel based in Nottingham.
I’m currently on a break in Bali. I’ve not been for 30 years but went to Lombok eight years ago, which reminded me of how Bali used to be. I send many people to Bali based on how I ‘knew’ it, rather than know it, and have not had any complaints so far.
While here, I’ve been to see a few hotels; some I’ve used many times, others I wanted to see and some I have people booked into.
I send many people to Bali based on how I ‘knew’ it, rather than know it, and have not had any complaints so far.
Two of them have made special arrangements – a floating breakfast on Christmas Day in their private pools. And, since I’m here, I bought champagne from K-Mart as it was cheaper and both hotels have agreed to deliver it to my guests.
But here’s why I’m not sure if I will sleep between now and their return.
Good on paper
One set of customers goes to Dubai a lot to stay at the One&Only The Palm or, if not there, St Geran in Mauritius. This year they told me their budget was lower, £18k-£20k, but they still wanted business class (of course). I found them the flights, three nights in Ubud, five nights in Seminyak and four nights in Singapore within their budget (just).
It all looks good on paper, and having visited the hotels, I’m happy. But I’m just not sure now if Bali is for them. The type of restaurants they would want to go to are on major roads, sandwiched between a second-hand brake pad store and a cement factory. I’m not sure how they will adapt to the rubbish on the roadside and the untidiness. I love the experience. But it’s got me thinking: how many clients want an ‘experience’ over a holiday?
Restaurants are on major roads, sandwiched between a second-hand brake pad store and a cement factory.
The Ubud hotel I have booked for them looks fabulous; it hugs the side of a hill and has views over a river. Rustic and authentic spring to mind, but with added luxuries, amazing bathrooms and an infinity pool. But will these customers appreciate the screeching of monkeys outside or will it annoy them? Will the morning call of the chickens make them reach for the ear plugs or appreciate the freshness of their eggs at breakfast? Will they be able to cope with falling leaves or will they expect someone to clean their pool?
Bali has clearly changed. The traffic is crazy – there’s so much more than 30 years ago – and the way they personalise the inside of the vehicles is wacky. I’be been in a very cool Toyota 4×4 and my driver Bong has an array of Hello Kitty toys on the dashboard, a plastic temple hanging from the mirror, a mahoosive sound system and – wait for it – orange fake leather seat covers matching the gear stick. It’s a cultural difference, but would my clients appreciate it?
From posting Bali pictures on Facebook I’ve had an enquiry from a family that enjoys mega-fancy villas in Florida.
Food-wise, in Dubai they may think they go all out tasting Arabic food by dipping a cracker in some houmous. But in Bali, how are they going to cope with nasi goreng (fried rice) for breakfast, a dipping sauce that blows your head off and a prawn cracker before 9am – for them, I fear it may seem like having Quavers for breakfast.
So when I get back, there’s going to be a long call to ‘prepare’ them. I’m so glad I have come on this trip. And from posting Bali pictures on Facebook I’ve had an enquiry from a family that enjoys mega-fancy villas in Florida. With them too, it’s going to be a long chat before I let them say yes to my proposal.
Great bookings this week (from Bali)
For all that, some clients are a piece of cake. This week I had a WhatsApp message from a guest returning from Sandy Lane, Barbados, asking: “Can we book the same week next year too please?” Of course you can! That’s £22k, thank you very much.
And then there was the email from a client whose cousin I sent skiing in France this year, asking: “Can she do the same next half‑term?” Oh go on then! That’s £8k – thank you! As much as it can be a difficult life being a travel agent – aside from the fact I’m typing this while on a terrace by the Balie sea, with a cold beer in hand in the 33C heat – if you look after your clients, it can sometimes be very easy.
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