We are delighted to take this opportunity to say hello to TripAdvisor fans worldwide. Please note that it is not our intention to get involved in an on-going discussion, but to simply balance the debate here, which has lacked hard facts on tour operator practice in general and The Enlightened Traveller in particular. This is thus the only intervention we plan to make here.
So, after all the false aspersions cast on our good name, and as we are all very busy people, please allow us to kick off with some current independent reviews from none other than one of your own Top Contributors, SeenitChicago here:
as well as an independent journalist from The Sydney Morning Herald who recommends The Enlightened Traveller – scroll down to the details regarding The Robert Louis Stevenson Trail:
Firstly, TripAdvisor experts would have you be wary of once-only positive posters, so once-only negative posters might also merit equal suspicion.
Our tours provide travellers with health-driven learning opportunities and our Anglo-French, family-run business continuously learns something from its activities in the global marketplace. We have recently learned that the old adage ‘no news is good news’ no longer applies to the internet age and that companies are unfortunately pre-judged, negatively, if they simply seek to build their business quietly, efficiently and effectively by word of mouth of satisfied customers [as is our case since 2006] rather than seeking quick solutions, such as the provision of free tours to travel writers – something which we shall never do.
The Enlightened Traveller puts principles before profit. For example, we produce no glossy brochure and encourage customers to return unwanted maps and unused notes to us in order to help us meet our environmental objectives. To this end, we provide customers with a stamp-addressed envelope in which they also return a post-tour evaluation direct to us. Every evaluation is read and responded to at the end of the season, if not before. Our preference, then, is to speak to our customers personally, on a one-to-one basis, rather than en masse or in the ‘wide open’.
This policy meets with our customers’ approval. We run a website that our customers like – so why have a Facebook Page or Tweet things that our busy customer base tell us they are simply too busy to read? We actually opened our Facebook Page very reluctantly as a response to this TripAdvisor posting. Apparently no serious company should be without one, so we have now joined the crowd; but please forgive us if we spend our time on our core business activities and update it only occasionally. Someone reading this will of course say, but you SHOULD MAKE Facebook your core business activity. We shall just have to disagree on that as we focus on meeting the demands of strong organic growth driven by our website alone.
As for Terms and Conditions / T&Cs, we suspect that only a rare minority actually take the time to read such things, with the vast majority of internet customers simply ‘checking the box’ without scrolling for hours to digest the incomprehensible ‘legalease’ that makes up most companies' T&Cs. And if we did take the trouble to read them, we would probably end up buying/downloading nothing.
We have nothing to hide and all our potential customers are automatically sent a copy of our T&Cs - especially as we no longer take bookings on-line due to high levels of cyber-crime to which national governments pay no attention.
May we also point out that our T&Cs are 'industry standard' and not ours alone. They may differ here and there in some minor detail, but the essence is the same Europe-wide. We sign up to them just like every other tour operator does in order to satisfy our insurers; and if we do not, we do not get insurance and so cannot trade - it's as simple as that. You cannot ask Fiat to renegotiate its warranty agreement with you, or HSBC to change its rules on currency exchange fees, so we are simply unable to change our T&Cs for customers who don’t like a particular point raised therein.
By their very nature, T&Cs are drawn up to take account of issues that rarely arise, as thankfully things normally go according to plan in everyday life. They deal with exceptions to the rule, then. They also exist to protect both sides of the ‘cash nexus’ – purchaser and seller.
We appreciate that some customers require reassurance to assuage feelings of 'cognitive dissonance' or post purchase panic. However, it is one thing for us to respond to that, as we always do, but another to wish to sample the product before paying for it, which of course is unreasonable. No European tour operator would provide a tour dossier and details in advance of payment. Why? Because, believe it or not, there are some unscrupulous people out there who might take the information, cancel the holiday and then re-book themselves direct! A good set of T&Cs protect honest and principled companies from such an eventuality.
In a world where people increasingly expect something for nothing, tour operators have to hit the right balance between providing enough information to tempt, and giving so much away that we make ourselves redundant. And remember, a tour company that gives accommodation names on site always does so subject to availability and reserves the right to make changes based on local factors about which only they may be aware. Not to do so would be lax business practice so long as it is done in good faith, with the customers’ best interests at heart. Yes, it comes down to trust, so choose your tour operator carefully and then trust them to look after your needs. Companies that do not will not survive for long and get a lot of bad internet coverage. It is not easy to become a bone fide tour operator and our activities are government-controlled and insurance industry-monitored. The same cannot be said for French-based expats offering to show you around their particular areas on the cheap without any insolvency or public liability insurance whatsoever.
We are not surprised that the Avignon Tourism Office has never heard of us and you should not be either. Our global customer base plan and book their personalised packages well in advance and so do not pop into local OT offices in France in search of a quick, last minute DIY fix. Different customers seek different solutions and each is equally valid.
Finally, OT offices in France favour, believe it or not, French companies; which brings us almost full circle: we may be a Franco-British family enterprise, whose activities straddle the English Channel/La Manche, but for reasons that most Anglo-Saxons will appreciate [as well as an increasing number of young French living entrepreneurial lives in London and NYC], we have chosen to register our company in the UK, outside the Euro-zone.
Voila! There you have it and we hope it helps. An insight into life as a European tour operator focussed one-hundred-per-cent on satisfying our non-Francophone customers whilst they travel in the Hexagon.
The Enlightened Traveller Team