Exotic names on maps of far away lands can make you dream and plan for a wonderful trip, but the dream can easily turn into a nightmare when it comes to booking flights, hotels, and cars! Two young Frenchmen, Serge Pierrard and Nicolas Berbigier, have set up a travel agency - Travel Stone - in Beijing to help make your dream come true and avoid the nightmare.
Serge, how did the Travel Stone adventure begin? Why a travel agency in China?
My business partner Nicolas Berbigier and I have known each other since the early 90’s when we met at the Ecole Polytechnique. I later became an IT specialist and Nicolas went on to create a travel agency. By 2005 we had both left our jobs, decided to start our own travel agency and started to look for a suitable country. China appeared to be that country: it had a few big players but still plenty of room for people like us. In 2006 we launched an online business-to-business company with a call centre, then in February 2008 we launched Aijiatu, our business-to-consumers agency for Chinese clients. The following September we extended our offer to the expat community and opened Travel Stone.
Travel services can widely vary from one agency to another. Can you detail what Travel Stone offers?
Travel Stone’s call centre has 8 employees with English, French and Mandarin. Making your own arrangements in China or in Asia generally, can be difficult and time consuming, so we take care of a whole range of services for you: from car hire, flights to, from and within China, train tickets, hotels, restaurants, tours (guided or not), short trips to the Great Wall, or weekends in Pingyao! We’ve actually recently organized everything from A to Z for a 3-week honeymoon covering China and Vietnam.
How flexible are you in the organization of trips?
All our trips have bespoke / personalized elements. Two clients rarely want the exact same thing, so you could say our trips are largely tailor-made. We use a common structure and then we add or remove elements according to our clients’ wishes. One might want to stay longer here or there. No two trips are the same.
Many expatriates have children, sometime quite young. How do you cater for traveling with children in China ?
As you know, Chinese love children and people will often ask you to take pictures of your children! However you seldom find baby’s car seats in rented cars! This is why Travel-Stone now offers to install one upon request when you book a car with us. Also, we have a list of hotels all over Asia that we recommend as having a tried and tested child-friendly attitude. Traveling here with children is not really an issue anymore.
As for baby products (nappies, milk ) you will easily find international brands in big cities but we recommend that parents bring their own supplies when they travel outside major urban hubs.
Travel Stone website: www.travel-stone.com
Travel Stone tel: +86 (0)10 5670 7458
Office hours: Monday to Friday: 9:30 am -7 pm / Saturday: 10 am-7 pm