We Specialize in Reliable Travel Information
By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert
There is a huge demand for reliable information in our world. I am amazed at the amount of misinformation and lack of candor among some in the travel industry. While shading the truth may be a problem, the worse problem is the amount of clutter about almost any topic—how do you know what is reliable information?
So, how do you solve this problem? Let’s explore this together by defining the problem, look a little at some of the misinformation we have seen, and, how we attempt to solve this problem for you so you can obtain reliable travel information.
What is Reliable Information?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, reliable is defined as “consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted”.
For the travel industry, to me, this means that reliable travel information depends on the quality and the source of the data.
Quality indicates the data must be truthful, objective, fact based and useful—the content needs all these elements. Good quality information clearly differentiates between opinion and fact. Without knowing a lot about whatever you want to research, this may be difficult for the average person to determine the quality of the information.
The source may be easier to research, unless it is anonymous. Internet Searches, Travel Writers, Blog Writers, Review Sites and Personal Recommendations are all valid sources--some are consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted and it is often easy to learn about the author(s).
Facts about Sources of Reliable Travel Information
Internet searches may be a good source but can be manipulated by savvy marketing folks who use search engine optimization to enhance their ranking that is not in line with the value of the content.
Travel Writers, if objective, can be great sources.
Blog Writers (like me) are only as good as their knowledge and experience.
Review Sites and Personal Recommendations can be valid sources but often lack enough knowledge about what is available that the information is not comprehensive enough to make sound judgements.
According to Myles Anderson, in a 2013 study, 79% of Consumers Trust Online Reviews as much as Personal Recommendations. My guess is that since the reviewers and personal recommendations appear to not be selling anything, they are more objective to the consumer. While there may be some validity to this concept, the problem is that data can be manipulated online and it is often anonymous.
Why do we Search for Reliable Travel Information?
There is a lot of confusing travel information available—perhaps nowadays just too much. We also live in a world of Fear of Missing out (FOMO)—a lost trip chance or our friends got a better deal/trip/value—you insert the right word. It is a ripe world for advertising that might shade the truth or just be outright deceiving.
I recently read about a travel service company started by some former Amazon whizzes who are ceasing operation at the end of the year. Called the Wanderlust Society, the company “sought to help people find inspiration for trips from friends, save ideas from anywhere on the web, view potential destinations on a map and more. Kleitsch thought the company could fill a void in travel planning by offering more reliable recommendations, sourced from friends and fellow community members” according to the online article from GeekWire.
I am sorry the company is ceasing operations but the fact that they started at all is starling—they believed there just was a void in reliable travel information.
Clearly, there is a problem, if start-up companies are trying to cut through the clutter—so, how do we solve this problem?
Some Reliable Travel Information Guidelines
Here are some of the guidelines I use when I study travel information:
1. Google Search rankings may be more a result of marketing power than content reliability—if it looks like an ad disguised as fact, it probably is slanted to some degree.
2. There is lot of disinformation on the web. (Two of my favorites are—a homeless shelter got over 100 5-star ratings as a hotel and a yard shack became the hottest, most exclusive restaurant in England with a two year waiting time to dine—both fueled by hundreds of fake reviews—neither even existed as a valid business!)
3. Look for extremes in reviews—100% positive or 100% negative just does not seem reasonable to me. I always look for the middle ground—why are the praising or panning the reviewed place?
4. For unknown sources, do not accept only one source—look for additional back up. I look for pictures in blogs taken by the writer and experiences that would be hard to make up—kinda a trust by verify mentality.
5. Apply your critical thinking skills to the info—what is the date of the info, don’t rely on just star ratings, are there enough reviews to make an informed judgement, what is the source of the info, what is their website like—you get the idea—just do not accept the info without examining it with open eyes.
6. Look for industry sources that value their reputation—reputable sources back up their info with facts and solid opinions and are not influenced by their vendors.
Some Examples of Misinformation in the Travel Industry
A while back, I read an article about river cruising. A quite respected travel agent was touting her expertise in river cruises in a national level magazine for travel agents. In the article, she used an example of her knowledge of river cruising and said she recommended to her clients to go on a river cruise on the Seine in France for the great wine tasting opportunities in the region.
I was stunned—while France has wonderful opportunities to sample vineyards throughout the country, the region of the Normandy area is famous for Calvados (an apple based brandy) but there are not many vineyards—the climate is just not right. The correct choice would be either the Rhone or the Bordeaux region for a wine themed river cruise—both are significant wine growing regions. This is a classic case of incorrect information, not fact based, and an agent who didn’t really know her stuff. If her clients were expecting great wine tasting experiences, they would be sorely disappointed unless they brought the wine onboard the rivership.
The writer and publisher should have noted this glaring error, but allowed it to go to print. Sometimes even usually reliable sources are dead wrong!
Another example is brochures making a river cruise look perfect when there are potential problems that are glossed over. If you want to cruise the Elbe River, the brochure makes it sound like it will be perfect, yet the consistent low water situation often results in small cruising distances and a lot of long, disappointing bus rides. The same goes for the Po River in Italy—short distances for the cruise, a difficult river to navigate due to swift water and unfavorable river banks that impede docking operations in some locations, turn a river cruise into a glorified bus tour.
How we solve the Reliable Information Dilma for You
It is our job to sort thru the clutter and decide what information you need to make an informed decision. For me, this often is the advantages and disadvantages of a desired trip. We use this technique a lot when working on a desired trip with our clients.
Here are some other techniques we use:
First, we need to know our stuff about where you want to go. If we don’t know, we must be honest and tell you we need to learn enough to make reasonable recommendations or refer to another advisor to help you. This requires us to apply the research guidelines we provided you earlier in this blog.
Second, better yet, we believe in gaining a lot of personal experience by going to see the places first hand—we use our experience to enhance your trip experiences.
The third part is honesty and transparency—we value our reputation and back up our opinions and recommendations with facts and sound reasoning.
The last part is handling expectations and desires—what is the best value trip, given constraints we all have when traveling—money, time conflicts, etc.
A Great Example of Reliable Travel Information—Our 2018-19 Europe River Cruise Company Comparisons
I’m going to make a bold declaration here—there is no other detailed source like our 2018-19 Europe River Cruise Company Comparisons with multiple comparison charts on the internet. Here is the link Our 2018-19 Europe River Cruise Company Comparisons
Yes, there are some good books, even charts with check marks and comparisons of 2 cruise lines on the web, but nothing as in- depth as our resource. We clearly identify fact from opinion, we are not sponsored by anyone that might influence our work, and we strive for totally accurate information. We are proud of our first page Google ranking—earned not promoted by clever SEO techniques.
My Final Thoughts
Reliable travel information—who would have thought it would be so hard to find the answers about your desired trip? We hope these guidelines and the stories in this blog will help you make more informed decisions and get you started on the right trip for your vacation.
We are travel experts, ocean and river cruise experts, and Europe destination experts. We have first-hand knowledge of almost anywhere you want to visit in Europe. We know our products and the vendors who sell them to you. We have designed special tours for dozens of clients, led several and will continue to find just the right vacation that will exceed your expectations.
When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip. You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience. And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process. We think we have all these qualities.
Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you! We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel. Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to help you: Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations! Your journey begins here!
HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years. He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years. He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees. His other Certifications:
AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
Viking River Cruise Specialist
Scenic River Cruise Specialist
Emerald Waterways Specialist
Avalon Waterways Specialist