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TRAVEL & TOURISM

Design your own trip

AN AMERICAN teaching at the Slovak Agricultural University a few years back remembered seeing an ad for a sightseeing trip from Bratislava to Vienna to Salzburg and back, with an English-language guide thrown in. However, he could not remember where he saw the offer.

AN AMERICAN teaching at the Slovak Agricultural University a few years back remembered seeing an ad for a sightseeing trip from Bratislava to Vienna to Salzburg and back, with an English-language guide thrown in. However, he could not remember where he saw the offer.

With help from the school's PR administrator, he found a travel agency in Bratislava that promised to "hand tailor" the same trip.

Tailor-made trips are nothing new for travel agencies worldwide, and Slovakia is no exception. Not all agencies can offer the service, however.

Jaroslava Glutová from Kasiopea, a travel agency in Bratislava that specializes in custom travel, says it takes a special kind of agency to meet the needs of individual customers. Tailor-made trips, for example, are not the domain of offices that focus on mass tourism.

Robert Kohlmann from Pressburg Bratislava Travel Office says that agencies in Slovakia capable of providing custom services are eager to do so. The difference between Slovak companies and those in other European countries, however, is that local agencies do not yet require a deposit for their services.

"So far it's a business risk," he says, adding that designing a custom-made trip is a time-consuming task that can take an agent days. Slovak agencies have started talking about requiring deposits. Perhaps in a few years, he says, the situation might change.

A custom-made trip usually comes about in this way: a client first checks with an agency about the trips it offers for sale to see if any standard offers satisfy the client's idea. Perhaps a minor correction is all that is necessary. If nothing meets the requirements, then the agency can work out a special offer.

The client naturally has to expect a higher price attached to a tailor-made trip, which is calculated on the number of people involved, the type of transport, accommodation and meal requirements, as well as the fees and guides to particular sites.

According to Kohlmann, the reasons for higher prices are several.

"Travel agencies can buy many services, such as accommodation, for lower rates if they buy them in bulk. Also, fixed costs, such as a guide's fee, are significantly cheaper when they are budgeted among several clients. Lastly, for individual tourists, it is often more difficult to find cost-advantageous transportation," he said.

Travel agencies say that a combination of standard and special offers - when a client buys accommodation from a catalogue and adds a special trip to it - is becoming more common.

Keep an eye out for your trip, and happy holidays!

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