First, I want to thank you for the wonderful job that you and your agency did on our recent 3-week trip to China. I have worked with many travel agencies in the past, but yours was absolutely the best. On a scale of "1 to 10," I would give you and your agency an "11."
Second, I would like to comment about some specifics. We had guides and cars with drivers in 10 cities and in all cases, the services we received were excellent. The guides were always right on time for pickup at the airport and getting us to the airport for our departure flights. Their English skills were extremely good and they were all very knowledgeable about the places and sights we visited. They also had a nice mix of personalities and we found them very engaging in our personal conversations, in addition to the exchanges about the sights themselves. The drivers were always very courteous and considerate of our personal needs.
Third, although we were pretty specific in our choice of hotels in advance of the trip, all of the accommodations were top quallity. We particularly liked the Sofitel in Xian and Chengdu, the Radisson New World in Shanghai and the Treasure Harbor International Hotel in Lijiang. Also, your last-minute change to the Green Lotus in Yangshuo worked out very well; it was a modern, comfortable hotel set away from the noise of the main tourist shopping street, but close enough to walk to all the action.
Finally, I would like to compliment you personally for your professionalism in handling the arrangements for the trip. From our first email communication to our last communication about the acrobat show in Shanghai, you were extremely attentive and responsive to the many questions that I asked you, responding not only with excellent information, but also with very quick turnaround. I particularly appreciated your flexibility, particularly the change in arrangements in Lijiang, Emei and Chengdu. I can't imagine any other travel agent being so responsive to our needs and interests.
To sum up, thanks to all of your help, our trip to China was terrific, as was the trip of Mr. Rosenberg and Ms. Adler. I would recommend your travel agency very highly to anyone who is interested in working with you and would be happy to communicate with other potential clients about your outstanding services.
Hoping that we (or friends) can use your services in the future.
P.S. As I reflected on the trip, I think I would recommend a few things to other clients who are interested in a more extensive trip to China.
1.Spend 3 to 4 nights in Lijiang. I know that we were pretty definitive about our itinerary (and fortunately, thanks to your efforts, we were able to make some changes), but I think I would recommend that people stay for longer than we had originally planned in Lijiang. I would say that a full day of guided sightseeing in the city, including the temple complex and the pagoda on the hill, would be advisable, in addition to at least a half day for some leisurely exploring independently. I would also include the Shuhe, the other old city on the program as well. Then the full-day excursion to Spruce Forest and Yak Meadow and a second day to Tiger Leaping Gorge would make a complete program. We were sorry that we didn't get to go to the gorge, but it was a choice of that or a day in Chengu to visit the Dafo at Le Shan. I would also try to organize the day to Spruce Forest to include a performance of Impressions of Lijiang, which we went to and enjoyed very much. I think it is ok to advise clients that the temple complex, pagoda, Shuhe and Impressions of Lijiang are options costs that they can pay for on their own, but if possible, I would build them into the program costs. It is nice not paying additional for admission charges, even if the are relatively inexpensive. I might also substitute the Impressions for the Naxi instrument show, which may have more limited interest.
2. Spend another night in Guilin and Yangshuo - particularly younger clients. We didn't have great weather on our free day in Guilin, so it didn't make much difference to us, but if the weather had been good it would have been nice to spend the better part of a half day walking around the lakes and taking in some of the local atmosphere. Similarly, it would have been nice to go out on a raft on the river near Yangshuo. If people have limited time, there are other sights that might take priority, but if they have a little extra time, this would be a nice place to have some free time.
3. One minor point. Schedule pickup from Shanghai to Suzhou to coordinate better for the train schedule. We were picked up at our hotel at 7:30 for an 8:52 train and spent an hour waiting in a crowded train station, when we could have slept later or had a more leisurely breakfast. Even accounting for traffic, less time is needed to get to the train, so I would advise local guides to keep this in mind when arranging pickups. Also, we may be unique, but based on our decision not to include lunches in our program, we actually had more time than needed for the scheduled program in Suzhou. Our guide was very nice and guided us on a walk on one of the local canals, where we could get a feel for real life, but others in similar situations might prefer the addition of one of the other gardens, e.g., the Master of the Nets, to the program. Just some food for thought.
Thanks again. Joel