19 August 2017

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There will always be place for travel agents
July 2005 11

This month I am going to talk about some of the aspects of life in the Gulf region, which irritate me and also about what gives me satisfaction.

I can't stand the sight of expatriate wives in their huge four-wheelers with children in the car, backing out of the car parks of supermarkets with their phone stuck to their ear, Why can they not make the call, before getting into the car? Or at least wait until they have driven the children safely back home? It is a very dangerous practice.
I will never become accustomed to the sight of some expatriate women walking along, while maids follow carrying and pushing the children and groceries behind them. It is like a time-warp back to the old colonial days in Africa and Asia seen on old movies.
Same for groups of expat ladies of various nationalities enjoying coffees and chats at Starbucks in Spinney's Mall, while their maids play with the children or supervise them in the playpen adjacent to the coffee house.
I know that it is hot here and women need maids in this part of the world, but let's treat them with respect and not behave as if earning a higher salary makes us some kind of ruling class.
I also think that it is terribly arrogant of some expat women to go shopping, before or after a visit to the beach or club, in a bikini, assuming that all is well, when they wrap a see-through shawl around their waists. After all the Gulf is not the south of France, but a region of Muslim states with a strict dress code for nationals of both sexes.
I am fed up with everyone I meet wanting to know, whether I have bought a villa or an apartment in Dubai! Yes, I know, it is supposed to be a good investment. And yes, no doubt the prices will keep on rising. But some of us might have alternative plans, which would not necessarily include Dubai for the rest of our lives.
Same goes for the stocks and shares popping up endlessly on the local stock markets, which seem to continue to go up and up... No one seems to listen, when I point out that shares can also go down, or is this only a phenomenon occurring in Europe and the rest of the world? I am real tired of know-it-alls predicting the death of the travel agent, because of the tardiness of some of them in adopting the internet as a sales tool.
The travel agent has been around for a long time, ever since Thomas Cook took his first customers on a trip to Norway’s fjords many moons ago, and I do not think that such careers are about to be curtailed.
I agree that some travel agents maybe have to be a little bit more savvy in adopting and using the websites, which are being created for them by some airlines to help them sell air tickets. In my opinion there will always be a place for the agents, who have years of knowledge and experience in the travel industry.
I am presently planning a trip on the famous “Blue Train” in South Africa with several complicated air connections, transfers from airports, train and hotels to link to this journey. I would not have had the faintest idea of how to sort this out without my friendly travel agent. He even suggested a better hotel than I had found in the brochure. For their part, travel agents have to ensure, they take advantage of the Fam trips offered by various airlines, so that their staff can speak with authority about a destination.
It certainly gives you a wonderful feeling of confidence, when an agent says: “You will really like the Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel in High Holborn in London. I have stayed there several times and the staff is really helpful and friendly. Just around the corner from the hotel, there are several coffee houses  –  and if you are a smoker, you can have lunch and a cigarette in the hotel bar” or, “the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo is a marvellous hotel, but be careful, when purchasing some of the delicious chocolates from the shop in the lobby, for they will cost you an arm and a leg!”
This sort of insightful information cannot easily be ferried out on the internet – it is so much more satisfying to have a one-stop travel solution, which is readily available to all of us living in the Gulf.

Speaking Out Jonna Simon




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