Agents of the new breed operate differently from their predecessors. Now, rather than simply handling transactions or taking orders, agents are acting as travel advisors. Much like financial advisers assist their clients in managing their money, they work collaboratively with clients to sort via vast amounts of information and reach informed decisions.
Using a travel agent may seem like going the way of the dinosaur when there are online booking sites available. However, agents provide far more services than simply selling trips and cruises. There are still some agents that provide services or know that you can’t get online sometimes.
Working with a real person is always preferable, especially during times of crisis. People mostly look for cheap travel agents.
You need a travel agent for these 6 reasons:
1. You Need an Expert Travel Agent
Due to their training – and the fact that they are well-traveled themselves – good travel advisers can offer you options that you may not have thought of yourself. The majority of travel advisers are generalists while others specialize in particular niches, like cruises, multigenerational group travel, or particular geographical destinations.
If you want to order a cruise through an agent, he or she would likely be familiar with the different cruise lines, sailings, cabins, and excursions available. A few agents even specialize in certain areas, such as riverboat cruising. Cheap travel agents can be found in your locality.
2. You Want to Get It Right
There are some trips that are more complicated than others. For example, traveling to another country is much more complicated than a trip to the next state.
If you’re planning a large trip to celebrate an important birthday or anniversary or you’re coordinating itineraries with friends, or planning a trip with kids and family members, sometimes the stakes are too high to make a mistake. You might even be able to find an agent who can help you and locate the most knowledgeable and fluent English-speaking guides for city tours or shore excursions.
3. You Don’t Have Advisers’ Money-saving Connections
Travel agencies have consolidated and banded together to form large consortia, which provides them with unusual leverage when negotiating with suppliers on behalf of their clients. There are 340 travel agencies and 8,900 travel advisers in 20 countries represented by Virtuoso, one of the largest networks. (Signature Travel Network and Ensemble Travel Group are others).
Virtuoso advisers can obtain hotel upgrades, rooms with the best views, or extra amenities like complimentary breakfasts and spa credits using $12.5 billion in purchasing power.
4. Instant Services
The process of finding and preparing for a trip takes a lot of time, patience, and perseverance. Customers and users of the website GetHuman.com (which offers strategies and shortcuts methods to reach different types of overwhelmed call centers) report the average wait time to get American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United on the phone to be 14.3, 14.9, and 13.5 minutes, respectively – under ordinary circumstances.
It is no secret that we see a large influx of people trying to contact airlines by phone during major storms, during the holidays, and even when company websites are down. GetHuman.com’s COO, Adam Goldkamp, says that a user can wait well over an hour just to speak with someone if the user even is able to reach someone at all.
5. Check for a 24×7 Service Provider
Travelers realize that even after a trip has been planned, things don’t always turn out as planned. A flight is canceled, a luggage item is stolen, a passport is stolen, or a grandchild becomes ill on foreign soil with a high fever. It is comforting to know that someone you can depend on to resolve problems will be there to assist when “stuff happens.” The final thing you want is to be the one who can’t change their flight because their cell phone is dead. It is common for travel advisers to offer clients 24/7 customer service via phone and email.
6. Travel More Comfortably
Shawna Huffman Owen, a Virtuoso, says she tailor-makes experiences such as scavenger hunts for families in The Louvre or assistance with luggage on trains to make traveling in a style more comfortable. The goal is to create something that is not easily Googled – a personal experience,” she says.
The Bottom Line
Travelers need to do some research to find an advisor who can meet their needs, presumably based on a combination of chemistry, experience, and cost.
Depending on the type of agent you choose and the amount of research required to plan a particular trip, the fee structure may differ. An agent may charge a traveler up to $50 to book an airline ticket alone, for example, or they may charge a flat fee or an hourly rate to plan more complex trips. Some agents also earn commissions on certain products (paid to them by suppliers).