“Do travel agents still exist?” a friend asked me incredulously, after recently learning I had started a new business as a travel advisor. It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked the question. Suddenly it dawned on me: All that time I spend time posting inspiring travel destinations on social media won’t actually help me grow my business unless people understand the benefits of using a travel agent. (And yes, they do still exist, although now they are more often called travel advisors.)
So here are the top reasons to use a travel advisor when you start thinking about your next vacation:
- I can often save you money. As a member of one of the largest consortiums in the travel industry, I have access to the very best hotel and cruise pricing. I’ve frequently found hotel rates through my channels that are lower than direct-to-consumer sites like hotels.com. Think you’ve found the best price on a cruise? I can often match or beat published cruise fares, plus get you On Board Credit (OBC) that is in addition to any already offered by the cruise line. Not to mention that travel advisors have access to package pricing and friends-and-family rates that are only available through travel agencies. These are just a few of the ways you can save by booking your vacation components through me.
- I can definitely save you time. Have you ever considered how much time it takes to plan a vacation, especially an international trip or somewhere you’ve never been? Even if you already know where you want to go, there are so many details to nail down when booking a trip. Then, just after you think you have it all figured out, something unexpected changes the plan and you have to go back and redo it all. Then there’s reviews to consider – do you routinely read through all the relevant reviews to make sure the property you’re booking is going to meet your expectations? Research takes time, and your time is valuable. I became a travel advisor because I LOVE researching travel. If you can’t say the same, then you should leave the work to a travel advisor. You will enjoy your vacation more and save yourself a lot of stress, not to mention the hours spent on hold if you need to change your plans.
- I offer a service level you won’t get from an online booking engine. “I thought travel agents disappeared when online booking engines made it possible for consumers to book directly themselves,” my friend continued in her sweet and unassuming way. A light bulb went on; I realized that many people are unaware of the difference in value between booking directly yourself compared to booking through the assistance of a travel advisor. How long did you sit on hold last time you called in to book through that 1-800 number (and again when you had to call back to make a change)? Did you feel like they fully understood you, and vice versa? Let’s be honest, a lot of call centers are now sending you overseas for customer support. That’s assuming you’re not booking through an online operator that makes it difficult to actually speak with a real person at all! When you book through your travel advisor, you only have one number to remember for everything. From the moment we begin working together I make an effort to get to know your likes and dislikes, which allows me to make personalized recommendations you won’t get from an online call center. I will follow up before, during, and after your vacation to make sure everything goes smoothly and to promptly address any issues that come up so that your vacation will be as perfect as possible. Can you say you get that same level of concierge service from your online booking engine?
- My services are almost always FREE. Did I mention that all of these benefits can be yours for free? It doesn’t cost you more to book through a travel agent than it does on your own. Commission is already built into the price of hotel rooms, rental cars, cruise fares, and tour operators. If you book through me, I get paid the commission; if you book direct, the travel operator just keeps the commission. You pay the same price either way. So why not support a small, local business instead of sending more dollars to the huge conglomerates? Notice I said my services are “almost” always free. If you’re taking a complicated trip that will require more planning than average, or you’ve requested specific properties or suppliers that don’t pay commission to travel agents, I may request a planning fee to account for the additional time (typically somewhere in the range of $100-250 depending on the trip). Any planning fee will always be stated up front after our initial conversation, giving you the option to plan it on your own if you prefer.
Not everyone enjoys every aspect of planning their upcoming vacation, but many still persist in booking everything direct thinking they are saving themselves a lot of money by doing so. Hopefully, you now know you can hand the details over to a qualified travel professional and get all of the service benefits without costing you more. It all comes down to more value. Which option will you choose for your next vacation?