Our five nights at Guilin Ming Garden were great as well! It is certainly our favorite place in China. The apartment is remodeled, extremely clean and has a great view; having internet access is a nice touch and there is plenty of room for our entire family. After a long day of fun, it was relaxing to come home to delicious home cooked meals prepared by our nanny Mrs Huang.She made us feel right at home with her traditional Cantonese home cooked dinners: her normal dinner consist of soup, two meat dishes and two vegetable dishes; very much like the meals our Cantonese parents made for us when we were younger and the meals had brought back fond memories.
Lotus - A trusted name in family travel
Interview with Louie Yi, President of Lotus TravelEditor’s Note: Recently some clients have asked about Lotus’ status as an independent travel agency. Those inquiries originated from families who had been subjected to another China homeland organizer having a dispute with their travel provider, which had resulted in last minute cancellations of the families’ heritage trips.
For this newsletter, we thought it helpful to address some of questions for the benefit of any family considering heritage travel. We have typically discussed these issues in our workshops, but decided to pose a number of travel agency status questions to Louie Yi, president of Lotus Travel. Below is an excerpted summary of that discussion.
Question: With the recent events of last-minute tour cancellations, how were you able to step in and get the family’s tour “back on” in just a few days, when the original homeland organizer could not?
Louie Yi: “This is something that distinguishes Lotus Travel from most other homeland tour providers – we ARE the travel professionals who are booking and arranging the tours. Not all homeland tour providers are professional travel agencies; many “subcontract” that work to a separate tour provider in China. One of the most well-known mega travel agencies in China is CITS, which is a quasi- governmental organization. So, when a family books a tour with a homeland tour organizer that is not actually a professional travel agency, the family is actually entering in to an agreement with an organization that is several steps removed from the people arranging the travel. They subcontract the travel logistics to another organization. In that situation, the family’s tour plans become subject to the continuation of a workable relationship between the homeland tour organizer and the China travel agency. That is what caused recent problems for some families. I, as the president of Lotus Travel was able to step in at the last minute and work to solve this situation directly and rebook things based on my knowledge and direct working relationships. I am glad to say we were able to help these families keep their plans and retain their air tickets. They kept their long made plans to return and visit China just this past month.”
Question: So, is it true you were able to rebook a family’s homeland tour in when they were scheduled to leave in just 4 days?
Louie Yi: “Yes, it is true. Though I am not sure I want a lot of publicity on that fact---- (chuckling) -- I lost some sleep during those 4 days of working on their trip. It so happened that my wife and I were travelling with some companions on a vacation trip during that time. Our travel companions began to advise my wife to make me choose the laptop or her on the next trip. It was all in good fun though, and I am glad I was able to help this family save their plans and make their schedule to visit China, including seeing their daughter’s orphanage. I am glad to say, we were able to help each family who contacted us make their scheduled departure date and not disappoint their children. I have three daughters of my own – facing their disappointment is too difficult for a dad you know-- I am glad I was able to help this family.”
Q: That is an incredible quick turnaround. I would not have expected it possible to rebook in just 4 days – all the details with an orphanage visit and everything. How is that possible?
Louie: “Yes, I know what you mean. In the past we would consider an “emergency” homeland trip to be planned in a matter of weeks or maybe a couple of months. During October and into November, we helped several families whose travel plans were cancelled with less than two weeks prior to scheduled departure. One thing that makes a difference is that we have two offices in Asia, so we are “right there” to work out any last minute challenges and can resolve issues. Of course, on these cases, it was a team effort. We have a great team that worked together to respond quickly and rebook cancelled families’ itineraries. I worked with the family who had a 4 day notice of cancellation mentioned. Others on my team handled other families with a 10 day notice or a few weeks cancellation notice. I am proud to say that in all cases for which we were contacted, Lotus Travel was able to step in and assist these families to get them back on track. It is due to our great team and unique position in the industry of coordinating our own travel services as a registered, professional travel agency.”
Q: You have mentioned ‘professional travel agency’ a few times. What does that really mean?
“For example, as a professional registered travel agency, we receive any payments from clients into an established “trust fund”. These monies received from a traveling family are required by the terms of the trust fund, to be designated for payment to cover transport, accommodation, admission fees, etc. After families travel logistics are covered, we may use some portion of these funds to cover salaries, rent, business costs, and profit margin. Also, as a registered travel agency, we are also accredited by a professional travel agency accreditation organization called IATAN which stands for International Airlines Travel Agent Network. And, Lotus is also a member of the A.R.C, which stands for Airlines Reporting Corporation; as such we are governed by certain rules and regulations of each organization.
Of course, most people don’t care much about these particulars that much. Though we are glad to be affiliated with these professional organizations, we are most proud of our track record of helping families for the past 15 years. Serving families is where we focus our attention.
Q: You sound like you just enjoy what you do.
Louie: “Absolutely, serving families is very fulfilling business for me. I told my wife I would be retired by this time already, but somehow, I think I enjoy working too much to ever retire.”