National Travel Agent Day: Advocating for the Traveler and Providing Expert Advice
Yes, travel agents still exist. Though you can book online alone, you can also sell your house alone, you can fix your car alone, and you can do your own taxes. But trusting an expert saves you time, expense, and stress. And you get better deals.
Travel Agents are the Experts
With the advent of the internet followed by the onslaught of online travel booking sites, travel information and ways to book has become ubiquitous. While that may make travel planning appear easier and more fair, it's become more cumbersome and divides our buying power, ineffectual to enforce consumer rights.
As a result, air travel is among the biggest pain points and causes of skepticism among consumers. This is due to airline mergers, code shares and dense fine print.
"Americans overwhelmingly support with 70% to requiring airlines to advertise the full price for a passenger and not hide airline surcharges and government taxes in hyperlinks or fine print." American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA)
On May 8, ASTA and hundreds of travel advisors like myself are headed to The Hill to put our weight behind advocating for our clients, the traveler. Our job is to deconstruct those wordy legal documents written to confuse the consumer that allows laws to pass under Americans' noses.
I'm pleased to see a resurgence of agents and the need for real travel expertise -- just like an accountant for tax season. As a travel advisor, I find clients exhausted by the time they've reached me. It's unfortunate, since we're the first line of defence and offer many services that save time and money.
What is the value of a travel agent?
Below is a list of some of the important services we provide, which are either free or for a nominal charge:
- Bringing the world into perspective: An agent is a student of the world through ongoing education, time-consuming familiarization trips, collection of customer feedback, and agent community insight in order to be the travel expert for our clients.
- Investigating and supplying competitive information: A single supplier will provide information for their service rather than an overview or better fare on a competing company that would better serve the traveler.
- Timely promotions: As advisors, we are the first to receive agent-only offers, webinars on the latest information, and perks as a result of deep and long-term industry relationships. The cheapest isn't always the best; experts read through the clutter for the best option.
- 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. Your time is money, so think of us as your asset managers.
- Making recommendations for travel-related needs: Travel agents share what to pack, necessary Visas, and other insider tips as part of the full package.
- 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. Personalized suggestions that are in the best interest of the client, not the supplier, is the benefit of a travel agent.
- Enhancing the trip with value-added benefits and amenities: Agents can add to the client's experience with access to exclusive venues, sold out tickets to shows, providing a special land package, a specific escort, or other customer amenities.
- Using their clout to obtain the best possible outcome in seemingly impossible situations: Whether it's airline seats, hotel rooms, or cruise space, the travel agent has more buying power than the consumer.
- Problem Solver: The agent serves as the consumer's advocate in the event something inadvertently goes wrong.
We are thankful for our clients and the ability to plan travel whether it’s for a family reunion, a bucket list destination, or a chance to reconnect with your partner.
We’re also proud to be a member of ASTA