Chasing Cheap Deal Ghosts and the Evil Agents Fallacy

If a deal seems too good to be true, the chances are it is. In this travel item, we're looking at how the travel industry works and why there are so many cheap deals out there. We coordinate travel specialists for you and we have spent the last three years, developing the best price, most affordable experiences we can possibly find. What's interesting (and disappointing) is how travellers are continuously coerced into making impulsive 'cheap' purchases often to find the resulting costs, both in terms of experience and finance, to be less than expected.  

  • FACT: Everyone wants a unique experience that's not a 'package'.
  • FACT: The number of people travelling worldwide is increasing.
  • FACT: So there is a declining dependence on last minute deals.
  • FACT: Travellers that are getting the best deals, are organised enough to book early.
  • FACT: Cheap deals often hide substantial exclusions or succumb to other penalties.  

By Simon Mustoe

Definition of cheap cheap |CHēp| adjective (of an item for sale) low in price; 

  • inexpensive because of inferior quality: cheap, shoddy goods.
  • informal miserly; stingy: she's too cheap to send me a postcard.
  • of little worth because achieved in a discreditable way requiring little effort: her moment of cheap triumph.
  • deserving of contempt: a cheap trick.

You know these facts are true and yet, haven't we all spent time online, searching around and around for a better deal, only to come full circle and realise we either couldn't have afforded the trip in the first place, or were just better off going with the first thing we found. True? 

So why do we believe the adverts on social media, Google, TV and websites, that bombard us with cheap deal promises, when we know they're usually false promises?

The travel industry has done a good job of undermining confidence in so-called 'agents' but in the few years of developing travel for our guests, it's clear they negotiate the most cost-effective deals.

Can you tell the difference between a travel 'agent' and a 'specialist'?

Do you even know what a travel agent does and that they are only one of a few parts of the service that delivers your holiday?   

Let me give you an example. 

We organised a recent 18 day tour to Australia for a couple from the US (the tour came in under their expected budget by the way). There were about 70 people involved in delivering their tour. That included a travel agent to book flights, two specialist Australian wholesalers and over 60 activity suppliers and accommodation-providers.

A lot of people don't realise that when you book a trip, in addition to suppliers, there are often 3-4 separate entities managing this for you: the person who organises and books all the activities and pays for them; the entity that packages it together and makes sure everything works end-to-end; and the ground-arrangers, who meet you and ensure everything happens smoothly.

These people get paid through commission from suppliers.

If they didn't, the resorts and experience-providers would never be able to sell anything and you couldn't go on holiday.    

So the 'agent' is only part of the equation but without this network of people, you couldn't travel safely and cost-effectively. 

FACT: You are being lied to

Any company that advertises you should book direct with them to avoid the hassle of working with an agent is lying to you ... because they have to be acting as agents.  There's only a few of things you need to understand to rebuild your faith in travel specialists.

  • Every company selling travel is being paid on commission which is part of the service of delivering the travel to you. This discount isn't available to you
  • Everyone is selling more or less the same things on the same price, so if a deal is 'cheap', something needs to be left out, in terms of cost, experience or service. 
  • The only real deals are for those people who take advice, take their time to plan a trip and book early. 

So the only advantage any company can have of offering a 'cheap' deal is to get more of the commission paid to themselves, to cut costs. It means they can do more work in-house and not have to pay so many specialists.

What does this mean for you?

As we're continually reminding our clients, travel is complicated and fraught. A specialist will give you the right advice and take on any amendments and changes that are needed, removing risk and stress.

If you buy a cheap deal online, book your accommodation or flights yourself, you're on your own. If there are changes of problems, or you didn't factor in enough travel time etc, you have no-one from whom to seek a second opinion or advice. Our guests simply make a phone call and our specialists intervene and assist.

FACT: Almost every day, we encounter situations that could have been avoided, if our advice had been sought before travel.


So the take-home message, which we will continue to impress on people is TAKE ADVICE.

A holiday is one of the largest single payments you will make a year and over your lifetime, you could spend as much on travel as a small family home.

So don't get caught out:

  • TAKE your time
  • TAKE advice
  • TAKE the best early option       



Travel advice

Tel +61 (0)3 9014 9687


The team we have working on your travel arrangements have almost 100 years combined experience helping people plan specialist travel. One thing we know for sure is that if a deal looks too good to be true, the chances are it is. Agents aren't there to make your trip more expensive, they are there to negotiate the best deal possible for the experience you want - the 'cheap deal' you find online is rarely what you think it is. We regularly encounter a range of upsets, mishaps and costly mistakes caused by impulsive purchases in response to deals online. Travel, particularly to foreign nations, is a big purchase and it helps to have someone you can call on to seek the advice you need before you travel.

How far in advance should I book?

How to find the right trip for you

How to get the biggest bang for your buck

Chasing Cheap Deal Ghosts and the Evil Agents Fallacy

Wildiaries • October 2016