Just suffice it to say, I am a travel agent, and in my past life i worked for expedia and was a manager. The people that work at expedia as well as most of the big online companies are not travel agents, they do not have travel agent credintials and have not been to travel agent school. The majority of them are call centers and fill in the blank systems on the computer.
If you think websites like Expedia, Travelocity & Kayak eliminate the need for a travel agent; I give you 10 reasons why you are dead wrong.
1. Niche Expertise. This is the main reason to use a travel agent. Most agents specialize. It can be for travel to specific destinations whether a city, country or region. It can involve different accommodations such as luxury villas, all inclusive resorts, B&B’s, spas or even hotels. They may cater to business travelers, seniors, students, sportsmen or honeymooners. Some deal only in cruises. Some focus on rail or bus traveling. Whatever your need, there is a travel specialist to meet it.
2. Knowledge of International Requirements. Another essential reason to use an agent. International travel involves ever changing regulations, documentation, confirmations and vaccinations. There are visas, permits & other paperwork to contend with. If you are traveling on safari with a weapon you better have all your documents in order or you may find it waiting at home for your return. Only an experienced agent can cover all your bases. There is nothing more frustrating than bureaucratic red tape, especially if you don’t know the language. In travel, your time is money. A missed business opportunity may never be recouped. If you screw up you have only yourself to blame. The pros are less likely to err & if they do, you have a better chance of getting compensation.
3. Knowledge of Options for Your Budget. Very rarely is travel just a plane ride to a location. It also involves lodging & travel within your destination—is it better to rent a car & from whom? Maybe taxis are better. Are rail or subway options faster and cheaper? Should you buy a pass and which one? What accommodations are best suited for your trip & budget. An experienced agent can work up an itinerary based on your particular needs and keep it within your budget. It’s all about options. Agents have them readily available.
4. Accommodate Your Special Needs. Unless you travel alone, there are others who must be considered. Are you traveling with the entire family or you and your wife. Are their seniors traveling, small children or physically challenged person? Each type of traveler has special needs. What about your dining preferences? Many agents who book travel to specific locations have been there themselves or have the word of mouth review from their past clients & colleagues.
5. Give Unadvertised Discounts & Upgrades. Agents are often privy to unadvertised special promotions that can save you money. Agents who work in a particular area gain discounts & upgrades they can pass on to you. Do you know that the person traveling with a senior also gets the same senior discount? Agents realize they score points with you by saving you money. Let them do it.
6. Time Savings. Yes you can look online and check dozens of different websites for airlines, seating, travel times, connections, hotel availability, activities, tours, car rentals and the accompanying reservations, deposits & payments. But why bother? Let the agent do the work. They work faster, know exactly where to look and have access to the contact people involved. An hour with a travel agent will save you ten. Guaranteed!
7. Access to Latest News. Whether it is weather, politics, or any issue which may affect your travel, agents have the scoop. They get news from direct client feedback as well as colleagues & government sources. They routinely visit the destinations they send client. An agent’s business is to know what is going on in the places they send you. I had planned a trip to a particularly exotic resort in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands but changed my plans after my travel agent told me the beach had been reduced to a 3 foot swatch by a hurricane the year before. You can’t see that in a resort brochure or website. It’s not information readily volunteered by the resort reservations staff either
8. Alert You to Future Opportunities. A good agent will advise you of upcoming travel bargains, tips and concerns via newsletter and email. Just tell an agent your plans for next year and they will make it their business to look out for deals for you.
9. Personal Attention. An invaluable benefit. Once a travel agent has worked with you, they get to know you as a person. They learn your likes & dislikes. They can suggest destinations & activities based on these. My wife & I love the Caribbean. We want the best beaches away from the crowds and resorts with gourmet food. Knowing us, our travel agent finds the perfect places. We are very rarely disappointed. Which leads me to reason 10?
10. Advocate and Problem Solver. If there are problems, they know who to call to get a resolution They can negotiate better than you since they routinely deal with the people & companies involved. Your vacation or business travel time is valuable. Why waste it and bear the aggravation to deal with a problem? Let the agent get you satisfaction. I once had a bad experience at a resort where the proprietor was absent for unexpected reason and the staff decided to take it easy resulting in awful service (cat’s away syndrome) I complained to my travel agent and she got me a full refund of the sizeable service charge. The resorts and companies that deal in the travel industry cannot afford bad press from travel agents. Bad news travels fast. Competition is fierce for the travelers’ dollar. If an agent finds a company has many complaints or is not willing to fix problems, the agent will not send them any more business. If you’re unhappy, you’ll tell your friends and the agent can lose you & them.
Bonus! Non-Tech – Old School Crowd. Let’s not forget about all those people who simply like to do things in a more traditional way – Human to Human contact. Many of us have parents or relatives that are just not computer or tech savvy. They like to go down to their local travel agent in the mall or around the corner. These are in many cases their neighbors and friends. They crave the personal touch. They like to talk about other things like what’s new in the neighborhood, their kids’ baseball game or simply the bad or nice weather they’ve been having. This is how things were done before the internet and they will continue to be necessary for many years to come.
Travel agents are valuable professional. The Sellsius community will welcome them as members and promote them to the community (like all members). They can post their professional profiles, write tips articles and contribute to the forum. Visitors to the site will be able to search for them in the Getaways section. They can be found by their particular expertise.