“Without a Travel Agent, You’re on Your Own”
What is the role of the travel agent and how has it changed?
Travel agents work hard on behalf of the consumer. The role of a travel agent is to make a trip – whether for work or pleasure – a stress-free and memorable experience. Travel agents spend time not only booking tickets and searching for affordable prices, but also personalizing their services for individual clients. “Without a Travel Agent, You’re on Your Own,” exemplifies the importance and way professional travel agents view their role in today’s changing market. The job of a travel agent has grown and adapted to reflect the changes within the travel industry and the difference in the way people think about travel. Travel agents recognize that consumers today have done their homework and are more knowledgeable about what they want. Clients who turn to a travel agent desire an in-depth, personal approach and want the advice and expertise of a professional.
In January, the television news magazine, 20/20, reported the results of a test in which travel agents beat consumers at uncovering the best airfares. However, it is much more than the “lowest fare” that provides the compelling argument for a good travel agent.
The best thing an agent can do is to match up a traveler with the vacation that’s right for them. The professional travel consultant builds relationships with their clients to learn their interests and lifestyles, as well as their dispositions.
Below is a list of some of the important services, which are either provided free or for a nominal charge, by travel agents:
1. Distilling the product information: Through an on-going and time-consuming process of familiarization, continuing education and customer feedback, the agent becomes a travel expert.
2. Investigating and supplying competitive information: No single supplier is going to advise a consumer that a better route or a better fare is available on a competing carrier.
3. Staying abreast of the most current and timely promotions: Via daily faxes, agent-only e-mail transmissions, and their relationships with their district sales managers, agents are obtaining the most current promotional information.
4. Analyzing the current promotions: The cheapest is not always the best.
5. Clarifying the fine print, such as cancellation penalties and restrictions: Again, the benefits of a professional’s experience can save a traveler money . . . and headaches.
6. Making recommendations for travel-related options: Travel agents share the experience and knowledge they accumulate about a variety of travel topics – from where to eat, where to shop and what to pack.
7. Simplifying the research and subsequent transaction: Like a personal shopper, agents can provide one-stop shopping for travelers who require air arrangements, rental cars, cruise accommodations and hotel stays – with suggestions that are in the best interest of the client, not the supplier.
8. Enhancing the trip with value-added benefits and amenities: Agents can add to the client’s experience by sending a bottle of wine, providing a special land package, a specific escort or other customer amenities.
9. Using their clout to obtain the best possible in seemingly impossible situations: Whether it’s airline seats, hotel rooms or cruise space, the travel agent has more buying power than the consumer.
10. Getting problems resolved: The agent serves as the consumer’s advocate in the event something inadvertently goes wrong.
What are the benefits of using a travel agent compared to the Internet?
The Internet can be a powerful tool. It can increase the scope and reach of a consumer’s efforts and allow a person to check hundreds of options or research destinations in depth. But to make the Internet work effectively, a person has to understand where to look and what questions to ask, otherwise hours can be wasted surfing the Web and ultimately produce unsatisfactory results. This is where a travel agent can make a world of difference.
A professional travel agent is trained to guide a client through the entire process of planning a trip, whether for business or for leisure. Travel agents take classes, participate in seminars, become destination specialists and join professional associations in order to ensure they make each client’s travel experience as personalized, convenient and memorable as possible. When planning a business trip or family vacation, the Internet can be a valuable resource, but it cannot replace the expertise and guidance of a travel agent. Also, during travel crises, the Internet can’t replace a human being who will persist to help a client get restitution.
Will the Internet replace the need for travel agents?
There are some things technology cannot replicate, and the personal touch is one of them. The Internet is a valuable resource, but it cannot replace the expertise, guidance and personal service of a travel agent. At a time when travelers are stressed out with hectic schedules, travel agents have all of the information at their fingertips, saving valuable hours of surfing on the Web. Agents also can offer insider tips based on personal experience.
With the dozens of online travel sites and the ability to book directly with almost any airline, hotel or other travel service, it would seem that travel agents might go the way of the dinosaurs. The American Society of Travel Agents, though, reports travel agents sell 85 percent of all cruises and 70 percent of all packages and tours, as of 2008. Agents are still in demand, and offer plenty of benefits when you are booking your vacation.
Do travel agents charge service fees? How much? How has this changed? I DO NOT CHARGE A FEE FOR MY SERVICES
Most do charge fees. Since 1998, the number of agencies charging service fees on one or more product line has increased from 64 percent to more than 91% percent in 2009. The most common fee charged is a service fee for airline ticket procurement services. On average, travel agencies charge their customers $36 for providing this service. Agencies also often charge fees for other services such as trip research, Amtrak, car rental and hotel-only reservations.
What percentage of airline tickets, rental cars, cruises and hotel rooms are sold by travel agents?
When it comes to booking travel, travel agents are experienced professionals. Travel agents sell:
85 percent of cruises
70 percent of all tours and packages
50 percent of all airline tickets
30 percent of all hotels
25 percent of all car rentals
Time and Money Savings
Sometimes, spending hours on the computer searching for the best travel deals gets you results — and other times, it just leads to frustration. When you work with a travel agent, she does that legwork, searching out the travel options that best meet your needs and budget. In most cases, travel agents have access to information about rates and routes that average consumer might not have, saving you time and money, even when you consider the agent’s fee. Using a travel agent can also help you score a great deal on a package or promotion. Agents generally receive information and access to promotions from resorts, cruise lines and other travel providers that aren’t available to the general public.
You’re en route to a Caribbean cruise a when a snowstorm in Detroit delays your flight in Philadelphia. If you booked your travel through an agent, you can call him to get assistance with rebooking your travel arrangements. When you book through an online travel site, you might not be able to get that level of personalized attention, or you could have trouble finding someone who can help you get where you need to be. If something goes wrong when you arrive at your destination, such as your room is unacceptable or the transportation to the resort never shows up, your travel agent can usually resolve those problems.
Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take a cruise, but you’re not sure which cruise line is best for you or where you want to go. Maybe you want to take the kids to Disney World, but you’re having trouble navigating the endless array of ticket and package options. A travel agent can help. Many travel agents specialize in a particular type of travel, such as cruises, Disney or Europe, and are able to make recommendations and help you plan a trip that meets your needs and budget. Their inside knowledge helps you avoid wasting time and money on the things you’re not interested in, and lets you focus instead on taking the trip.
Travel agents who book a high volume of trips often have access to perks that you might not be able to get on your own. Whether it’s a room upgrade, a fee waiver or even reservations at a hot resort or on a popular tour, travel agents often add perks into your vacation plan. If you are planning a trip for a special occasion, such as a marriage proposal, a travel agent has access to the resources and people who can help you plan the perfect event.