Show customers that specialists make the difficult easy, says Michael Bowers, national sales manager of Shearings Holidays

I was in a travel agency a while ago and a man came in for a Shearings Worldwide brochure. What a wonderful coincidence I thought, so I introduced myself and asked if I could help. His answer crushed me. He said he just wanted the brochure to help plan a fly/drive holiday in the USA. Even though he was an independent traveller, he understood the expertise of the product genies when it came to creating the prefect itinerary for him to copy.

However, he then asked me the best way to go about buying tickets for attractions, queue jumping and which website I’d recommend. I replied that designing a tour was all about making the difficult easy. It explained it was about taking the guesswork out of the trip, knowing where to stay, which attractions to include, choosing the best local guides and even using the occasional private jet to cover more ground effortlessly. He nodded and told me about the time he visited San Francisco and could only look at Alcatraz from the dock because it was sold out and he hadn’t booked in advance.

This situation must happen to agents time and time again and it is so important to get the message across that booking with a specialist operator really does make sense. All agents know to highlight what’s included in a tour, which makes it worth far more than the sum of its parts, but it is those difficult to do elements that can often close the sale. Let’s be honest, we have all looked at a map and thought places are far closer than they actually are but sometimes a simple search on Google Maps, (other map services are available) can show just how difficult it can be especially when you tap the public transport icon and see the changes and timings required to get there and back.

It doesn’t have to be far afield to be difficult. One of our most popular experiences from Lake Como is the Bernina Railway, which whilst not impossible to do independently, is far easier to do using our 90 minute direct transfer to the station. Plus the coach is waiting in St Moritz for a speedy return, after an obligatory hot chocolate of course!

Alternatively, look at an event like the British Grand Prix at Silverstone – customers may ask where to park? Or where to stand, or sit? Most things can be done independently, but it’s harder and when customers are on holiday or at one-off events they don’t want hard, they want easy so that they can enjoy the experience to the full.

On top of all of this it’s the small things that add up too, porterage at every hotel, free time built in and a reserved seat with a view to move onto the next place be it a luxury coach, train, ship or plane.

If you are wondering whether I managed to persuade the person to book an escorted tour instead of his fly/drive, sadly I didn’t but we had a good chat and he left with a much better understanding of the huge benefits of booking a tour and its complexities. I am sure he was thinking about me as he trawled the online accommodation and attraction sites.