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?