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Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

Australia
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Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

My partner and I recently went through the process of booking our Maldives honeymoon. This website proved invaluable in informing the process so we thought we too would share our experiences so far so that other people can benefit from what we have learnt.

If I had to sum up our lessons learnt they would be:

• Do your own research, travel agents are great if they have been to resorts but if they haven’t been there they know as little as you do.

• Get multiple quotes and also contact hotel directly.

• Find people on this forum who have been to or have recently booked the resort you want and ask them which travel agent offered them the best deal. Follow up with those travel agents.

• If it sounds too good to be true just contact the resort directly, they can tell you if the agent is legitimate or not.

• Consider issues such as insurance, liability and exchange rates

And here goes the full story……

We initially went to see our Australian travel agent, she is a lovely lady and has over the years been very good to us. She had however never been to Maldives so she could not recommend any particular resorts. We started looking though the brochures. So glossy and so photoshoped! We had no idea where to go, they all looked great. Our travel agent then said she would make some calls and find us some resort options. She came back with 3. We almost ended up booking Vivanta by Taj, everything looked great and the price was good. We then discovered this website and read some reviews. We found out that they were still in the process of constructing/fixing retaining walls (which were conveniently photoshoped out of the photos). I ended up trying to contact the resort to enquire when the construction was scheduled to be complete but never heard back from them. We decided not to book any of the resorts that out travel agent put forward, wishing we had a travel agent with more Maldives knowledge.

In the meantime, having discovered Trip Advisor we reviewed just about every resort in Maldives. Alila Villas Hadahaa immediately struck as our dream resort, good reviews too. However, looking at their online rates we figured we could not afford a whole week there so we decided to settle for 5 days (better 5 days someplace perfect that 7 someplace with construction works). Having our hearts set on this resort we approached 2 travel agents: our local Australian agent and Atoll Paradise (Maldives based). We also approached the hotel directly. What ensued was beyond belief. The Australian price was comparable to the hotel’s quote. Atoll Paradise came back saying that they had this great promotion where every second day was free but they actually came back with a quote more expensive than the Australian Agent (the service though I have to say was good). At this point we were pretty much ready to book with our Australian agent when franciscoN from this forum suggested I contact Linara Travel (BIG thanks to franciscoN!). I cannot recommend these people enough. I dealt with Justin Parkinson, excellent service, very easy to deal with and outstanding rates. First of all he said that we could book 5 nights but that the hotel actually had an offer for 2 nights free if you book 5, plus additional discount. This meant that 7 night stay would actually be cheaper than 5 nights! It all sounded a bit suspect, well it really sounded too good to be true. I couldn’t find any bad reviews on these people but I kept digging to assure myself that they were legitimate. I re-contacted the other two travel agents to see if they too had 7 nights for less or about the same as 5 nights and sure enough they did, not that they told us about it when we first enquired. Plus they were still about $1,500-$2,000 more expensive than Linara. I then contacted Alila Villas Hadahaa directly asking whether Linara was the real deal. They responded saying that Linara is one of their preferred agents and as such really do have access to exclusive rates. So we then decided we were going to book with them.

But that was not the end…. our local travel agent advised against it (probably partly out of genuine concern and partly because she wanted to get the commission fee). Basically if you are in Australia and you use an overseas travel agent you are not covered by the Travel Compensation Fund, meaning that if the agent goes bankrupt you have no way of getting your money back. The travel insurance in Australia does not cover this either. At this point I spoke to Justin about this directly and we decided that we would book provided we could pay fully in advance and that they would pay Alila Villas straight after they received the payment from us. This is because travel insurance in Australia does covers us if anything goes wrong with the resort. It was also good timing as Australian Dollar was very strong. So we did, we booked, we paid and we have since received a copy of confirmation from Alila which says that our account has been settled in full. Now we are just waiting for February so that we too can experience what this wonderful country has to offer

Before I forget, just before we booked with Linara, Atoll Paradise came back to enquire if we were still interested. I told them we had decided to go with Linara. They then asked what Linara had offered us so I told them. They came back saying that they would love the opportunity to match it but we were not interested. Would anyone in their right mind be interested? They were basically saying that they were happy to overcharge us by $2,000, let alone not telling us about the special 7 days deal.

So this ended up being a lot longer than I expected but if at least one person finds it useful it hasn’t been a complete waste of time.

Melbourne, Australia
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1. Re: Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

Thanks very much for the informative post. This is also one of the resorts we are looking at can you tell me what you paid? We had been offered 5 for 7 deal for September

Oxford, United...
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2. Re: Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

Hi

Very informative post. Thank you. Glad you got what you wanted at the right price. I'm sure you'll have a great time.

By the way, if this is your first visit to the Maldives - be warned - the place is addictive , so better start saving now for your next visit. :-)

OD

staffordshire UK
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3. Re: Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

great report thank you

Australia
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4. Re: Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

Hi,

for 5 nights in an Island Villa followed by 2 nights in an Aqua Villa for two of us we paid USD$5,859. this is for next February. This includes daily breakfast, all required Maldives airport transfers and all relevant service charges and taxes.

Everyone keeps saying Maldives are addictive :) it our first time going there, I can already see I'll want to go back :)

Melbourne, Australia
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5. Re: Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

Thanks heaps and can't wait to see what you think.

Ange

Singapore, Singapore
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6. Re: Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

Hi. I just booked with Atoll Paradise for Alila in November. 7 night stay in an Island Villa for about US$5850. pay 5 get 2 free with breakfast but there are some extras : US$100 credit for F&B per day and thus i save US$700 instantly, i also get a choce of spa for 2 or guided snorkelling trip and also a choise of an excursion to one of the local islands or a private deck dining. it was cheaper than booking through the hotel.I totally agree that you need to do some research before bookingt to compare prices as who would have thought that going through a travel agency is cheaper than the hotel.

I did have some base pricinng as one of the credit card companies were having a promo with the Alila (20% off their best internet price) and Atoll Paradise not only matched that promo but threw in the extras mentioned above.

I personally had a very ood experience with them, my only discomfort was having to pay upfront for my trip, and there are cancellation charges. Thus only use them if your trip is confirmef. my travel consultant is called Carmi and she was lovely to work with

Madrid, Spain
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7. Re: Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

aa000, I have just come back from Alila and it is great, you will enjoy a lot. I stayed at an island villa with pool, but I saw the water villas: they are very beautiful but there is something that I don't like at all about them: people walking at the water villas deck can see you at the terrace, it is completely open and you can be seen from the deck... And they have started the water pavilion works this august, so I suppose they will last a few months...

About the Island Villas, some of them are quite close to the beach, but most of them are a lot of metres inside the island: I went inside all the island villas and I checked it: island villas with pool: there are 3 right in the beach, but the rest of them have some plants in front of them, so that you can see the beach from the pool but people at the bech can't see you... The pool was great... I think the island villa with pool is the best option...

Australia
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8. Re: Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

mariaeugene, thanks for the info, wish I read it before we booked, I would have booked a few days in the pool villa :) I’m sure it will be wonderful just the same. Is there any chance you remember which villa number is the best to stay in (both for island and water villas)? I may ask very nicely if they can put us in those, you never know we may get lucky :) I hope the pavilion is finished by the time we get there in February.

PChua, that sounds like a good deal too. You are going in the low season so it should be cheaper than our booking (Alila’s website says that the High Season is between 10 January - 15 april, 16 July - 31 August and 1 - 31 October 2010). Your accommodation should be about $230 less per night. It looks like they gave you these saving in the form of extras. The excursions are a few hundred each so I’d say you got a good fair deal :)

When we were looking we were dealing with one of Atoll’s other travel agents. I’d say the deal that they offer depends on which agent you get and what they think they can get away with in terms of their commission. I hope you have a great holiday and look forward to reading your review when you return :)

Madrid, Spain
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9. Re: Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

Hi aa000, I haven't had time enough to look for the best numbers, I hope tomorrow I will be able to do it... I haven't forgotten it...

Madrid, Spain
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10. Re: Choosing a Resort and Travel Agent - Lessons Learnt

aa000, the water pavilion won't be finished by february, they had built the piers and they are just starting to build the rest... I don't think they will finish until summer...

About island villas, I would choose a private one, nor a hidden villa nor a exposed villa.

- Hidden villa: 9, 16, 17, 22, 23, 28, 29, 34, 35

- private villa: 3, 4, 10, 20, 21, 32, 33

- Inside but view from beach: 30, 31

- Exposed: 36

As the beach changes from one season to other, I can tell you that in august, the west beach is about 15 meters shorter than it was in january, but they told me that from january to august, the beach had change position 3 times, so who knows... So, being the beach shorter than in january, some rocks in the beach were exposed, so from villa 19 to 35 there are big rocks in the water: when you enter the sea you must be a bit careful during low tide, but in high tide rocks are covered and depth is enough as not to have problems.

In front of beach villas 30-32 there are rocks at the beach, so I wouldn't choose those ones.

Erosion was affecting strongly to the beach at villas number 19 to 24, so I would have avoided those numbers.

In august I would have chosen villa number 10.

About water villas, they go from 38 to 51 (end of the jetty). The water pavilion is below 51, so I would choose 51, 50, in that order for privacy, but if they are working at the pavilion, it will be more noisy than others...

I had menus of restaurants, but they were not the good ones, the real menus are larger... Food is quite expensive, starters from 20-30$, main courses are from 35-55 $ more or less, dessert around 25$. And of course, everything +10%.

Battuta's is as expensive as Relish and food is excellent at both restaurants, but service is much better at Battuta's. Cocktails are not specially expensive at the bar: 15$.

If you want to know something more, just tell me...