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Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

Texas
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Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

I am curious if anyone has used Belize Specialists to plan your trip. Good price, but a few dated bad reviews. Thoughts? I have noticed that many of you did not use a company and just planned through local guides upon arrival. Are these companies useful and I'm curious about their markup?

Edited: 11:24 pm, March 12, 2012
Davie, Florida
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11,187 posts
2 reviews
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1. Re: Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

go have a good trip and enjoy

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
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11,693 posts
327 reviews
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2. Re: Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

I prefer to read up and plan my own trips - part of the fun! I can't help with agency recommendations from 1st hand experience but would go with Katie Valk if you decide you want someone else to plan your trip.

Ambergris Caye
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for San Ignacio, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
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7 reviews
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3. Re: Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

Do not hear much about them good bad or otherwise. You will be fine to book on your own if you decide to go that route.

Saint James City...
Destination Expert
for San Pedro
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15,489 posts
10 reviews
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4. Re: Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

I'd second Katie Valk if you want some help. She's lived in Belize for close to 30 years. Very knowledgeable.

Minneapolis...
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141 posts
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5. Re: Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

As hopefulist mentioned, if you enjoy the planning process and doing your own research you can book a nice vacation to Belize on your own. There is also a great archive of information on this forum that will help guide the way. However, if you're pressed for time, some recent studies show the average traveler will spend over 30 hours researching, designing and booking their trip.

The major benefit of using a consultant for Belize is they will get to know your interests and give you tailored recommendations that are the same price as booking direct. Consultants are paid on commission by the hotels and airlines at no cost to you. Consultants may also have special relationships with the properties that might lead to special amenities, free upgrades and activities not available online.

When selecting an expert, be sure to ask them about their background. It's perfectly fine to interview them and weed out the call centers with limited experience. Ask them questions such as;

When was the last time they have been to Belize?

Have they visited the places they are recommending?

What is their area of specialty in Belize?

How many properties do they have in their portfolio? Make sure they aren't pushing just a few and letting bias/commissions drive their recommendations.

How long have they been in business? Where are they based? Are they covered for bankruptcy protection to protect your investment?

If you need help finding a qualified specialist you can also check out the Belize Tourism website http://www.travelbelize.org. All tour operators/specialists on their website go through an annual screening process by the BTB.

Hope this helps!

Jim Bendt

Owner, Travel Beyond

Edinburgh
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434 posts
99 reviews
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6. Re: Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

We have just finalised our trip to Belize next January and initially contacted 4 Belize specialists advertising online and based in the UK. Only one out of the four actually contacted us to help! They did draw us up an itinerary with recommended hotels but doing the trip ourselves saved us about £1,000. Thanks to all those on TA include JeanH and Katie Valk, we have now booked accommodation and our flights from the UK via Miami. Any local trips we will arrange via our hotels.

Minneapolis...
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141 posts
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7. Re: Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

I also wanted to address your question "I'm curious about their markup?" This is often misunderstood so I'm hoping I can add some clarity to the question. A travel specialist will not get rich off a booking. Most are drawn to this business because they have a passion for travel and like helping people get the most out of their vacation.

Each tour operator/specialist may have a different type of policy as it relates to getting compensated. However, it's perfectly fine to ask them how they make money? This will also help uncover any bias in their recommendations. For example, if they recommend one property heavily it's probably because they earn higher commissions. You should definitely ask for a minimum of three choices to level the playing field.

When looking at how consultants make money, it's most important to keep in mind the commission they earn is not added onto the price of the hotel/tours/internal air unless they specify they charge an extra service fee or higher commission. The commission is already built into the Hotel/tour/air pricing. So you will most likely pay the same price as booking direct. If your quote is different than the property website you should ask why? Often, online prices don't include taxes, services fees and gratuities which can often distort prices by 20-30%. So don't assume the specialist is trying to pull one over on you. But protect yourself and ask good questions.

To help give you some broad parameters here are a few industry standards as it relates to Belize:

Hotel commission: 10-20% of the room cost (excludes taxes, meals, service fees, gratuities, transfers, etc.). Commission % is based on volume of business.

Tours: 0-10% (excludes taxes, meals, service fees, gratuities, etc.) depending on volume of business with the tour operator.

Internal air: 0-10% of fare (excluding taxes, fees, fuel surcharges) based on volume of business.

International air: 0% commission. Most agencies charge a $50-100 service fee since the airlines eliminated agent commissions. It's cheaper to book this portion on your own. A good specialist will tell you what flight schedules are best to catch a connecting flight on Tropic or Maya Air. Keep in mind the planes in Belize don't fly after dark so a poorly planned international flight could lead to an unnecessary overnight near the airport.

COMPENSATION EXAMPLE:

7 nights hotel @ $250 = $1750. The hotel will pay the specialist $175-350.

2 Tours @ $200 each = $400. Specialist makes $0-$40

2 internal Air @ $200 each = $400. Specialist makes $40

Total: $215-$430 (paid by hotel/tour/airline, not traveler)

On average, a specialist will spend 8-12 hours researching, planning, designing, following up on your trip. This will equates to $26-35/hour. Pretty reasonable for the value they will provide in designing a unique experience around your interests.

If you have them do International Air this will most likely be a service fee. The specialist will make $50-100. But again this is an easy spot to save some money and book direct.

Hope this helps!

Jim Bendt

Owner, Travel Beyond

Texas
2 posts
1 review
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8. Re: Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

Thanks for all your help.

San Pedro, Belize
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560 posts
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9. Re: Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

Good to see Jim on the forum - Tour Operators/Wholesalers that I generally recommend when someone wants to package international air include: Magnum Belize, Katie Valk, Barb's Belize, Travel Beyond, Belize Travelpoints, Sea and Explore, and Reefs Ruins and Rainforests amongst others. As a general rule I suggest people work with their resort directly to book tours - helps the concierge determine the best guides and experiences based on the guest's interests, budgets and personalities.

San Ignacio, Belize
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10. Re: Belize Specialists and Tour companyies

Thank you KimoJim. Very informative.

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