Harry Bissoon and Glenroy Valantine-Rice have each accumulated an impressive number of years in the travel industry as agents. Bissoon is going on his 35th year plying his trade in the community, while Valantine-Rice has been at it for about 20 years or so.
Both admit to have taken a bit of a beating since the Internet became a big player in the travel industry.
There are people who sit at home cutting there toenails and proclaim proudly that for them, “ travel agents don’t exist any more.” They book their own flights whether they’re flying to T.O, Trinidad or Timbuktu. And they’re fully convinced that they get the “best price.”
“Sometimes they get good prices, but it’s not always the best deal,” says Bissoon, who remains one of the best-known agents in our community. “You see, while there might be some advantages to buying on line, it’s still too much of a risk just to save twenty to a hundred dollars.”
He explains that when everything flows smoothly from the booking to the flight to your destination and back, it’s “all good.”
“But as we all know, stuff happens in the course of travelling, missed flights, delays, cancellations, and that’s when they come to Valantine and myself cursing.
However, if we didn’t sell you the ticket, we can’t do anything for you. How many times have people been told to go back to the point of sale: who are they going to go back to on the Internet?”
Over the past six years or so Valantine-Rice has diverted much of his business into the cruise industry and has had to deal with “online bookers” there also.
But he remains unfazed because of the intimate knowledge of the industry that he has acquired over the years and the privileges, which allows him to serve his clients in ways that the Internet cannot match.
“The bottom line is that we’re part of this community and it’s where we do the bulk of our business, so what our people are looking for,” says the Barbados-born agent.
People can buy cruises directly from the cruise companies or from various sources on the internet, but when they come to me, most I can get them are special deals that they wouldn’t have been able to get themselves.”
Since 2007, Valantine has taken hundreds of cruise enthusiasts to dozens of destinations across the eastern, western and southern Caribbean, and today he stands as one of the foremost organizers.
He does so by staying abreast of trends and changes in the industry by doing on-line courses or does what in the industry is known as a FAM, which familiarizes the agent with ships, the destinations and various island tours.
“It really allows you to sell a lot better,” he says.
Bissoon and Valantine says their commitment is to provide the community with the best service whether people are taking a trip to the Caribbean to visit family, or on a two-week cruise.
And as community-based agents, the biggest advantage they bring to the travel arena is the fact that people can pay little by little until the trip is paid off.
“They can’t do that on-line.”
Bissoon and Valantine-Rice are unwavering on the benefits of using their services instead of the Internet.
“We are licensed and certified to provide services that are regulated by the government,” he says. “And for the work we do, our commission is really small.”
But he says nothing deters them from making sure that people in the community fly from Point A to Point B, at the best cost and the most convenient way.
Harry Bissoon and Glenroy Valantine-Rice join Montreal Community
CONTACT and Howard Stretch Carr of West Indian Rhythms (CKUT 90.3 fm) in inviting the community to a Western Caribbean Cruise visiting Haiti, Jamaica, Cayman Island and Mexico from April 12 to 19 aboard the majestic Royal Caribbean vessel, Freedom of The Sea.
Contact: Bissoon at 514-502-7651 and Valantine-Rice at 514 922-1268.