The Truth About Travel Agents

As a travel agent, it never ceases to amaze me the misunderstanding many folks have of travel agents and the role they play in the travel business.  When I chose to change careers and use my passion for travel as a business, I heard from family and friends, who generally trust my decisions, things like, “Is there any money in that?”, “Do people still use travel agents?” and “Why would you do that when people can do it themselves?”.  I would like to start with that and share with you some of the common misconceptions and myths surrounding the travel agent.

1.  People don’t use travel agents anymore. – With the invention of the internet and the boom of online agencies, many people do plan their own travel.  For a short time, there seemed to be a swing toward the OA’s but what people found was that the customer service, one-on-one relationship and advocacy of a travel agent was missing.  The Miami Herald ran an article in December entitled Travel Agents Making a Comeback where they quoted a study by Forrester Research that found that the number of leisure travelers who enjoyed using the Web to book their vacations dropped from 53 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2010. In an American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) survey, 44 percent of agents said they had more clients in 2010 than they’d had the previous year.  The number of people using travel agents is expected to continue to increase due to the new regulations, fees and confusion that travelers encounter when trying to use an online agency.

2.  It costs too much to use a travel agent. – While it is true that some agents or agencies charge a fee for their services, there are many more of us who do not.  Often, you will find that agents charging fees are refunding those fees upon booking.  We are paid directly by the resorts, consolidators or tour operators in the same way the large online agencies are.  We make the commission as they do but the major difference is that should you need anything before, after or during your trip, when you call us you get a live person on the phone who knows you and will help you right then!  Do you really want to call an automated 800 number when your hotel room was released because your flight was 4 hours late?  I wouldn’t and neither should you.

3.  I can do what a travel agent does myself. – That is probably true.  If you take the time to research the flights, hotels, destinations, tours or excursions and travel information, you probably can.  The question you have to ask yourself is this.  “What is my time worth?”  You can spend valuable time searching the online sites and printing out quotes (which may be different tomorrow) and reading reviews or you can call or email your travel agent and let them do everything for you.  Travel is our life.  We eat, breathe and sleep with schedules, itineraries and locations.  We are experts and can actually help you make the most of your travel plans.  Our knowledge and access to supplier sites and other travel references can get a reliable quote to you in a short amount of time and all you had to do was shoot a quick email.

4.  Travel agents can’t get the same deals as I can find on the internet. –  This is a common myth that travel agents are not able to access the “deals” that are readily found via the online sites.  First,  when you look at that “deal” on the web you need to really look at the final total to see what may or may not be a great deal.  Often the prices you see are lead-in prices and do not include taxes, fees or transportation to and from the resort.  You often do not see the total amount until you are at the final payment screen.  On the other hand, when you receive a quote from a travel agent the total is the real total and what the entire package will cost you.  You just have to compare apples to apples.  Second, travel agents have access to those deals and often to others that are never advertised.  We are often able to get you extra amenities (yapa) added at no charge because of our relationships with our suppliers.  The bottom line for you should be value and you are more apt to find true value through your travel agent.

5.  Travel agents are all the same. – So, you have decided to book your next vacation through a travel agent but don’t personally know one.  They are all the same anyway, right?  No, not at all.  In this day and age, travel agents tend to specialize in types of travel, destinations or any variation of specialties.  There are agents who specialize in cruises only, business travel, specific countries, romance,  groups, Disney, adventure… and the list goes on.   If you are planning a romantic getaway you probably do not want a Disney specialist to find the perfect vacation spot for you.  Check with your friends or family, your Facebook contacts, Twitter or do a Google search for agents in your area.

I hope this helps to clear up some of those nasty rumors about us.  We do what we do because we love travel and because we love to help people with their travel needs.  The major difference between us and the online agencies is that we offer you a relationship that you wont find elsewhere.  We are your advocate, your planner and your research assistant.

Remember, it’s not just a vacation… it’s YOUR vacation.  Shouldn’t it be the best it can be?

Happy Travels,

Edwina Parker

Categories: Travel, Travel, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “The Truth About Travel Agents

  1. Great article. I have used agents in the past and I have done it myself. One of the frustrations I had when attempting to use an agent is that is was so hard to find one. Looking at international travel on two occasions, once from Atlanta and once from Houston I could not locate anyone. I found a couple in the yellow pages in Atlanta but the number was disconnected. I searched the internet and sent a few emails but got no response. I had the same problem in Houston. After searching online I only found one that advertised travel to Asia and after sending an email got no response. I think, and I may be wrong, that a lot of agents are relying on the corporate clients. Those that do cater to individuals are not doing a good job getting the word out about their services. I am glad I have met a few like you through social media so I can now utilize the services more.

    • Wow. I am sorry to hear about your frustrating search! I wish we had met up before you had to go through that. Though I do not specialize in Asia, I do know a few agents who do and would love to refer you if you need one again. Corporate travel has never been my cup of tea. I’m all about making travel dreams a reality and getting from Chicago to LA and back for a one night business trip just doesn’t do it for me. 😉 Hopefully, we will be seeing more agents hitting social media to get their services out there. I’m terribly sorry you had such a hard time. Let me know if I can help in any way.

  2. Edwina, that is a phenomenal post. You are right, there are many myths surrounding the role of travel agents and yes, some truth about how many travel agents did not evolve with the times. The key part is what you mentioned in your fourth argument, which is that travel agents need to provide added value. Added value can come in expertise & counsel about a destination, resort, activities or transportation. It can be in logistics to and fro. It can be in overall supervision, saving time and effort for the customer. And it can be in case where things go wrong, when a flight is cancelled or a hotel overbooked…

    Unfortunately, I find travel agencies don’t do a stellar job at promoting this added value, nor do they take to social media to toot their own horn. Most have a Facebook page, but they will use it old-fashioned way, just to push their latest deal or promotion, as they would a newspaper ad or radio commercial…

    A good travel agent that provides added value will never have problems retaining business, nor getting new one. Your post serves as a reminder there is still a very clear role to be played, and it’s there for the taking.

    Cheers from Quebec City,

    • Thank you very much for your comments, Frederic. You have given me pause to re-examine my Facebook page. 🙂 I totally agree, our best attributes are often the ones we take for granted as just “part of the job” and fail in expressing those. I truly appreciate your candor in sharing your thoughts.

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