Once upon a time, not so long ago – to be specific, the 1990’s, before the proliferation of home computers and Internet access – people who wanted to travel called a travel agent to help them make their arrangements for flights, hotels, cruises and more.
But, by the year 2000, everyone from your boss to your Aunt Linda began using their home computers to search for travel deals and make reservations on their own. Some predicted that the profession of travel agent would disappear.
Travel agents are still here and ready to serve
That prediction has been proven wrong. Some travelers continued to rely on experienced, professional travel agents to secure their top choices for travel – especially complex, multi-destination vacations – at a good price.
Plus, travel agents responded to the times by changing their business model. Instead of working to attract higher volumes of clients, they stepped up their level of service, providing increasingly personalized care to their valued customers. They also developed expertise in types of travel that have grown in popularity, including cruises, adventure trips and voluntourism.
Now, it seems that another shift is underway.
Based on a survey of 14,000 households, the American Society of Travel Agents reports that it is seeing the highest numbers of consumers using travel agents in three years. Another study shows that the millennial generation, who will be traveling for years to come, are the age group most likely to use travel agents.
Why? We think there are three reasons:
- people are pressed for time
- people want the best prices
- people are simply bewildered by the oversupply of online travel information
Bewildering amounts of travel information
Online travel information can be too much of a good thing. There’s a lot of information out there, and simply knowing which offers are legitimate and which are too good to be true can be difficult.
A professional travel agent knows, and can help even the most bewildered clients. This is especially true if you don’t know exactly where you want to go on vacation, or how. A travel agent will listen to your ideas, talk about what interests you and what your travel preferences are, then present two or three top recommendations.
Outsourcing to save time
With so much online travel information, you simply may not have the time to go through it all. That dilemma creates space for an agent to help. Think of it as outsourcing to an expert in the field.
With an encyclopedic knowledge of travel and an understanding of your travel preferences, an agent can find the travel options that are right for you more quickly than you can. And, most agents are incredibly well-traveled, so they add their first-hand knowledge of travel modes and destinations to the advice they give you.
The American Society of Travel Agents says that the average agent has visited 57 countries, adding three or four every year.
Securing the best prices
This has long been a travel industry reality: professional travel agents have access to pricing that is simply not available to the general public, not even if you book online.
Agents build relationships with travel wholesalers and providers, including airlines and cruise lines, to ensure access to the very best values for their customers. That’s something an individual traveler, however well-versed in using consumer travel websites, simply can’t do.
In addition, agents understand that the lowest price isn’t always the best value. For example, when booking a flight, the lowest fare may come with conditions that you don’t want: a multi-stop flight, the need to change planes, a low on-time percentage, high change fees, etc.
And, more people now realize that using a travel agent does not mean a big markup in price. Actually, the money an agent can save you may more than pay for the service fees, which are probably less than you think they are. Go ahead and ask; a professional travel agent will be happy to share that information with you.
Planning a trip shouldn’t be a stressful experience. Anyone who is feeling overwhelmed when researching destinations or trying to make online travel arrangements should call on a professional. You’ll be glad you did.
Our Cruise Specialists team is ready to help!