Why use a travel agent, I mean travel expert?

In 2016, travel and tourism created a $7.6trillion dollar industry that contributed to over 262 million jobs across the globe.[1] With the increase in access to online booking agents, travel truly is only a click away. However using the internet may not be giving you the best deal, and most importantly it is not giving you the advice and knowledge of an expert. These are just a few reasons why when planning that next vacation it is in your best interest to use a travel agent, a real person!

Before I get into a list of reasons why you should use a travel agent, I want to give you a recent story of an experience I had at work. A gentleman just happened to be at the mall and stopped into our store. He had received a deal through email from an online company about a 21 day cruise and was interested in it as the price was unbelievable, and cheaper then what he found directly from the cruise line company! After we had talked a little he informed me that he would much rather give business to a local company if I could find him a similar deal. When I researched the deal he had been sent, the company did not have that cabin price available anymore, so the price was already more then what was advertised. It stated that some port charges were included, but taxes were not, so this also added an additional $200/person to the quoted price. They were given an $85 On Board Credit, which was a nice bonus! However their flight was not included, and any additional accommodations they would need, they would have to book themselves. At one point he had found flights and a hotel from $1300/person, but that deal didn’t last very long. By the time he had paid his deposit on the cruise with us, he not only was able to get the room class the other place had offered, but through the special the cruise line was offering we were able to get him a lower deposit, a $300 on board credit, plus a upgrade to one night of specialty dining. By combining his flight with his cruise, he not only saved on airfare, but was able to purchase an insurance policy that covered both the flight and the cruise, saving him even more money and knowing that if he has to cancel, he will be protected. Having not been familiar with Barcelona, searching for a hotel was overwhelming as they wanted a good deal, but in an area near the tourists sites. Having been to Barcelona myself, and based on our conversation we had when he stopped by, I knew what areas they would like, and a European hotel chain I was familiar with that saved them even more money. Plus I made sure they had transportation after the cruise directly to the airport, and explained their transportation options when they first arrive in Barcelona as well. All in all, we were able to save them over $300! Plus someone else has all of their travel information and if anything goes wrong on their trip, he has direct access to an expert to help navigate them!

So if that story is not enough, here are some of the other reasons to use a travel agent:

  • When you are booking you a vacation and travel, you are booking both a product and a service. A travel agent is familiar with what is offered and can be sure to match your needs. They know the products, they know the services provided. They know what is going to make this vacation an incredible memory.
  • They have the ability to look at multiple offers and take a critical look at your trip. Too short of connections, switching airlines, overnight flights, all of these things that you may not think to check. Plus they receive emails daily from various companies and probably know of a better deal then the offer you saw on line or received. Plus they are on top of travel advisories and what is needed, such as passports, visa’s. etc.
  • They have experience and connections. Travel agents are in the business because they love to travel, so chances are they have been there or know someone who has. Also many of them have direct connections with the destination you are going to. Most travel agents are connected to larger suppliers so even if they are not experts in the region you are going to, one call and they will be able to get the information they need to book your dream vacation. Because the destinations know the value of a travel agent, many times they have leverage and access to enhance your experience.
  • They have education and resources. Many cruise lines, resort companies and destination organizations offer specific training to travel agents on their products, offers and booking. Plus many of them have regional representatives that are in contact with agencies explaining new products, offers or even changes. This lets you know that the agent is not only selling a product that they are familiar with, but also one that they themselves would use. Trust me when I say there are tourism products out there that I would not sell!
  • They save you time and money. You could spend hours on line searching for the best deal/product for your vacation or you could just stop by and talk to (or call) your local travel agent who can do that all for you. I will admit there are times when I have encouraged customers to spend a little bit more for a certain product, but that is only because I know the experience is more authentic, or more in line with what they are looking to do. Most of the time your travel agent wants to save you time, while giving you the best deal. Plus they really like putting trips together!
  • They are your advocates. Flight cancelations, weather problems, injuries/illness, problem with the hotels, whatever may happen on a trip, you can rest assured that your travel agent will work to make sure that your experience is seamless and effortless. Because they have your travel plans, they can start working the behind the scenes magic to try and rectify any unforeseen circumstances. Bottom line when you travel, you know someone has your back! And when you are traveling you know they are always just a phone call away.
  • Their business is based on building relationships with you! They want to get to know you and what you like to do. They want to help you make those incredible memories!! They want to hear those stories and see your pictures when you get back! They are not necessarily brand loyal, so they are not just selling for one company, but truly customizing the experience just for you! Think about it, there are thousands of options out there for a cruise, all inclusive resorts, even a trip to Vegas and a Disney vacation have unlimited options!! Your travel agent is going to take the time to listen to you, what you want to do, and narrow down the options for you. Sure they work on a commission, but they also know that building trust and long term relationship with you is more important then upselling something you do not need or will not enjoy! (On the example above I went from making an almost $120 commission, to a $10 commission because I knew those clients would be happier at the other location and it was a better deal!).

At Top Travel we never charge you a service fee, which sometimes means we spend a lot of time researching a vacation for a potential client that never happens, or even sharing our knowledge with them that they use to self-book. That is just the nature of the business. However that is something to consider when you are talking to a travel agent, you are gaining their experience and knowledge for free! So if you stop in and visit with one and decide to go on that trip, do not take that knowledge and self-book it! They receive their commission from the destination, and basically you just gave that commission to someone you have never actually met or talked to, but just happened to answer the phone when you called the company or went online to do it. Trust me, someone made a commission on your booking regardless of how you made it! Several agencies do charge a fee, and there is nothing wrong with that, as they are giving you their time and knowledge, but trust me, when you need them for the reasons above, that small fee they may have charged will be worth it.

Bottom line, in the incredibly fast growing business of tourism, there are still experts out there! Google may always find you an answer, but it does not always provide you with the best experience for you! For your next vacation… consider using an expert!

Let a travel agent.. I mean travel expert… help you turn your miles into memories!

[1] https://www.wttc.org/-/media/files/reports/economic-impact-research/countries-2017/unitedstates2017.pdf

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