Why would I hire you when I can just book my trip online? Can you really beat the price I found on Travelocity (Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Kayak, Groupon, etc.)? How much will it cost me to hire you? Travel agents hear these types of questions regularly and, the answers we give determine whether or not we’re hired for the job. Like many service based professions, we’re convincing the customer of the value of the service we provide. Unlike other services, however, utilizing the services of a travel agent almost never costs the customer a penny.
Hiring a travel agent to assist in the travel planning process can take a significant burden off the customer. Some customers already know exactly what the trip is that they want and they just want to make sure they’re getting the very best price or value for that trip. Others have dates in mind, but aren’t sure where they want to go. Whether they’re booking a six month around the world cruise or a single overnight hotel stay, a travel agent can help. Even seasoned travelers can benefit from the tools and information that a travel agent has access to.
All customers have different priorities when it comes to their specific travel plans, but the two most common reasons for hiring a travel agent are time and travel cost. Planning a trip can take a lot of time, especially if you’re planning for multiple guests with different interests or planning a complicated itinerary. Why not hire a professional to do the hard work of researching all the best travel options for you? Not only do travel agents have access to exclusive deals (believe it or not, there are still travel and tour suppliers who work exclusively with travel agents), but it is our job to connect guests with the right suppliers for their travel needs. These suppliers value the guests travel agents bring them, and pay us a commission for the sale, meaning, the customer very rarely pays the travel agent a cent for this service.
Cost is also an important factor for hiring a travel agent since unfortunately; most of us don’t have an unlimited vacation budget. Many people spend countless hours going back and forth between discount travel websites comparing factors like price, location, flight times, and reviews. By the time they’ve finished their research and decided that the second flight they found was their least expensive option, the advertised price has increased and they have to start their search over. It’s no wonder they need a vacation.
Travel agents have access to some of the most comprehensive search and booking tools that simply aren’t available online to the general public. These tools are incredibly efficient and allow us to get an accurate travel quote based on actual available inventory, unlike many online booking engines that advertise prices and availability that truly aren’t available. This is part of the reason why flights are overbooked so frequently and if you haven’t accepted the airline’s offer to take a later flight for a $200 voucher, you’re checking your bag plane side because there’s absolutely no room left in the overhead bins for your carry on. If you booked this flight on your own through a discount online booking tool, you find yourself at the mercy of the airline without any support or assistance with the details of rebooking and how this may affect the remainder of your trip. If you booked through a travel agent, however, assistance with the changes in your travel plans is only a phone call away.
As a travel agent, I spend a good portion of each day doing travel research. Between looking up quotes and booking itineraries for clients, I’m attending webinars and trainings for specific suppliers and destinations. Like most industries, the travel industry is constantly changing – airline policies and fees, entry requirements for different countries, cruise rules and regulations – the list goes on. I stay as knowledgeable as possible about current travel news and promotions so I can pass that information on to my customers to save them time and money.
To summarize – travel agents provide a travel planning and booking service. The majority of the time, this service is provided free of charge and will not only save the customer time and money, but will typically result in increased value (package or room upgrades, credits, gifts, etc.). When I started this post, I intended on covering all the questions in the first paragraph in one blog, but I clearly have a lot to say on this topic, so I’m going to save some for my next post on travel agent pricing, quotes, and payment. Thanks for reading and happy travels this Memorial Day Weekend!