As a travel consultant there are two common questions I receive: Do Travel Agents Still Exist? and Why should I Book with a Travel Agent? First off YES travel agents do still exist although many now prefer the title travel consultant. Why you ask? It has a lot to do with the advantages we offer now a days. But I'll come back to that.
With so much information available thanks to the internet, some people believe that anyone can book their own travel. I guess you could book your own travel because websites are great for allowing you to book flights and hotels and throwing information at you including reviews full of "strangers" opinions. In some cases it can be beneficial to book your own travel. A great example would be if you're going for your yearly visit with family in another part of the country. You're familiar with the flights so you simply book it online.
Booking your vacation on your own with the big online travel giants isn't necessarily going to save you money. Those companies are earning a commission, just like I do. Their commission and service fees are already built into the total cost and most times you won't even realize it. So your not avoiding fees by booking on your own. We all get paid for our service. I get paid by the tour company when you plan your vacation with me.
It's not necessarily hard to plan your own vacation yourself. It might even be fun! Or it can end up being a huge disaster. Below are a few points to consider before clicking the BUY button online.
1. Experience. Think about what you do for a living. For nearly every profession, you can find a website, video, or app that gives potential customers a way to do it themselves. With a little help from the Internet you can fix your car, build cabinets, replace plumbing, write wills, draft contracts, cut hair, make clothes, buy shoes, do accounting, buy stock, cook, bake, and let’s not forget edit videos and touch-up photos. Finding instructions or tools is not the problem. Doing it RIGHT is the issue. If you put the wrong screw in the wall, it’s no big deal. If you put your family in the wrong resort, it’s a much bigger deal. It becomes even bigger if something goes wrong.
Most people deal with planning a vacation once or twice a year. Travel consultants deal with it all day, every day and many have been doing it for years. Their livelihood fully depends on using their knowledge and experience to craft a vacation you’ll love so much that you’ll keep coming back for more. Websites and apps with advertising-driven, biased offerings are counting on your own lack of experience to push you to options that will earn them the most profit. Your satisfaction is not part of the display algorithm.
2. Real Deals. Have you ever wondered why some cruises, resorts, or hotels seem to have cheaper deals on some websites? There’s always a reason. Sometimes, it’s a good reason. Sometimes, it’s a very bad reason that you won’t know about until you arrive and it’s too late. There’s always a reason, and a great price is not always a good deal.
For example, every hotel has “undesirable” rooms they have trouble filling. Smaller rooms in noisy areas, rooms that haven’t been renovated lately, or those that overlook the dumpsters are always cheaper than nice ones in quiet areas with good views.
Websites are perfect for liquidating those rooms at bargain rates. Unfortunately, these so-called deals rarely mention things like smelly carpet or noise. It’s also no coincidence that many require full payment upon booking and are nonrefundable.
Even the most beautiful cruise ship has cabins they have trouble selling. The ones directly under the dance floor of the all-night disco, or the ones near the anchor chain that bangs against the side of the ship are just two examples. There are plenty of hard-to-sell cabins that are perfect for online deals.
To be fair, sometimes you can get lucky online! Sometimes the deals are real and worth the risk. Sometimes.
Travel Consultants know the legitimate deals from the come-ons. They’ve been trained to uncover the reason behind the bargain. They understand travel lingo, know what to look for and most importantly: they know what to avoid.
3. Options. When you buy a vacation package online, you’ll almost always be required to pay for the entire trip up-front. Did you know that travel consultants offer another option? Usually they can hold the space for you for a small deposit of around $200 to $250 per person. Final payment is not due until between 30 to 60 days prior to departure. In addition to the payment options, travel consultants can research and suggest alternatives to what you may have requested. While “Resort A” may be wonderful, its website will never tell you that “Resort B” has a nicer beach or better rates, or that that its own casino is closed for loud and dusty renovations.
4. Advice and Connections. Travel consultants offer something you’ll never find online or in an app: professional advice. Online, every resort or cruise is made to look beautiful and appealing. But, it’s no bargain if you end up regretting the trip. The main reason to use a travel consultant is to make sure you never waste a penny on a vacation you won’t truly enjoy.
There’s one more thing you’ll only get from a travel consultant: relationships. They have real one-to-one personal relationships with travel suppliers that can fix things should something happen to go wrong.
If a travel app messes up your reservations, you’re on your own. But with a travel consultant – you’ll have an advocate on your side with connections. In other words: a human who cares. To the machines, you’re nothing but their data.
Travel consultants are able to interpret the internet for you. Through our training and experience, we sift through the mounds of travel information that is out there and research the best possible options for you. That saves you countless hours of online researching! You are able to still do your own research as some people enjoy this part of travel planning but with our help at hand we narrow down the research for you and make sure you are on the right path.
I want to leave you with a travel tip. When using a Travel Consultant, don't just give the bare minimum information. Don't feel that what you liked or disliked on your previous vacations is not relevant. Don't feel that some personal information (ex; hubby loves to golf and you have a passion for culture) is also not important. It's all important. Getting to know you, your needs and desires is how we help you have an amazing vacation experience. Travel Consultants are constantly adding personalized touches that are perfect for you and your loved ones.
By booking with me, you're not funding a CEO's second vacation home, or a luxury yacht. You're supporting a small business run by a mom.
- Excripts from this article by Nolan Burris, Chief Visioneer, Future Proof Travel Solutions