ASTA Members Report Strange Travel Requests

Travel News Asia Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Travel agents these days receive just as many unusual requests as they do conventional ones. In a recent survey, ASTA members were asked to report the strangest travel requests they had received. Requests range from slightly offbeat to incredibly peculiar; nevertheless they are sincere requests from travelers all across the U.S.

Most agents, at one time or another, will encounter a particular customer. These customers tend to inquire about the most detail-specific aspects of their trip. Here are a few examples to better illustrate this point: "I need 12 extra pillows in my hotel room," "Can you ask the hotel the color of the room so I can buy matching lingerie," "Are the pillows in the room round or square?" and finally, "Can the cruise ship place my bed on the balcony of my room so I can hear the ocean at night?"

"Every traveler has a different picture of the perfect vacation. I've received a few uncommon requests over the years but that's what makes this job interesting. It's also rewarding when I can accommodate those requests, planning the ideal vacation for my client," said Cheryl Hudak, CTC, ASTA president and CEO.

Finding answers to detail-specific questions might be one thing, but how do agents make their customers understand that certain requests are not even possible? ASTA had more than a handful of members report that at one time or another they have had clients ask "Can I drive/take the train/take a bus to Hawaii?" Indeed, it seems travel agents these days face more than just the challenge of finding the best value; they should also be prepared to give their customers a crash course in geography.

It's not uncommon for agents to make reasonable travel arrangements for a client's pet. However, some travelers just don't understand why it's not possible to accommodate every request. One participant reported that as she was going over the trip details with a client the client asked, "How can I take all nine of my Chihuahuas on the plane with me?" It was a first for the agent who could only respond with "I'll have to look into that for you." Another agent informed ASTA that one of his clients insisted on traveling to France with her horse for a horseback riding tour. The agent had to explain that there would not be room in cargo for her horse to travel safely.

While many travelers love their pets and want to travel with them, their requests may seem mild in comparison to travelers that make illegal requests or those that worry about illegal activity. One agent clearly remembers a client calling and asking for her assistance in smuggling a short-wave radio into Kenya. A traveler bound for the DC area was so apprehensive about his flight that he asked his travel agent to guarantee his safety.

ASTA members were eager to share their client's unusual requests and here are a few more that left an impression. A Louisiana-based agent was planning a honeymoon for a couple and the bride's mother was determined to go with the couple and sleep in their cabin on a roll away bed. The couple was relieved to find out that the agent was able to get a letter from the cruise line that stated roll away beds were not permitted. An agent in Montana had a couple walk in one day and asked for his assistance in planning a cruise. The only thing they really cared about was whether or not they could fish off the back of the cruise ship. Finally, a Texas agent had a customer ask her one day if the airline would allow him to bring his pet armadillo on board.

When making travel arrangements for clients, agents know to expect the unexpected. One participant said, "Nothing is strange to me. I try to take each request seriously and remind myself that no two people and no two vacations are alike. People always have their special reasons for traveling and I try to remain flexible to help them plan their dream vacation." Odd requests aside, travel agents that adhere to that motto will surely find success.

See other recent news regarding: Travel Agents, Tourism, ASTA, Survey, Research

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