TIPS | Is there a purpose for a travel agent anymore? 5 reasons why YES is the answer
Travel Agents (Travel Professionals, or Consultants) these days, have had to make a lot of adjustments to the services they provide. Gone are the days, where people will go to a storefront, sit down with someone to discuss their travel needs, and the entire experience is in person.
Well, not to say, those situations are not happening anymore, but there are a few travel agencies that are still operating in a person to person capacity. The travel industry, like every other industry in the last 15 years, have undergone tremendous amount of change due to the digital era, which means they have had to move away from the face to face interactions, and more to the digital realm of selling their Travel Services.
With that said, a lot of people who are traveling now, in their 20’s-30’s have probably never actually gone into a travel agency, sat down and been advised. Which begs the question, “Why even have travel agents?
Most recently, there has been a major shift, with websites offering information a travel agent provides, but now done so in a more efficient manner. Airlines are also doing the same thing, where their clients can go online and book flights + vacation packages; making things quick, and simple especially for the savvy traveler. Since then, there has been an influx of these websites, whether they are providing all sorts of travel deals on their website, or sending via email, or are allowing travelers to book directly on apps. There is just a ton of information online. So much so, that it bogs down the average traveler on options.
It is becoming increasingly difficult, to figure out who and where have the best deals, rates and options.
The airlines have even had to adjust to this influx by creating budget friendly carriers where they provide the most basic flight service. It’s meant for those travelers, who are not into the fluff of the service, such as checked baggage, seat selections, food etc., and would just like to get from point A to point B the most cost effective way possible.
With all of that, where does the travel agent fit into this phenomenon? If everything is right there for the consumer, what need is there for the agent anymore? And what are they offering in exchange for the ability to do it yourself?
And those are all fair questions.
We listed answers to these questions, in hopes it gives you more insight to the role of the Travel Consultants and why they are still relevant today. Keep in mind, that travel consultants are not for everyone, so this may not specifically apply to you, but the demand is still very much there:
They are licensed and educated
In Canada, the travel industry is regulated and therefore the travel professionals must be as well. In order to offer travel services, you must be licensed. This has been a major misconception, and a lot of people have been accepting services from those who have not gone on, to getting their license.
Different provinces, offer different licensing requirements. This helps for situations where you have dealt with someone who is unprofessional, unethical, and where you may have to take legal action against. Travel agents, must have errors and omissions insurance for those trips that do not end well.
In the USA , some states do not require you to hold a license or certification, but some may require you to register with the State. Be sure to check your government on what they require from their travel agents before using one, to ensure you are protected.
They are here to help plan your vacation
If you book using one of those online websites, and something unfortunate happens, you’re out of luck. Before I got into the travel business, I use to use those third party websites all of the time. I remember a couple of years ago, having an issue with my booking once I arrived to my hotel. They refused to help me at first, because I booked through a third party website, and when I spoke to the third party company, they told me I had to deal with the hotel directly. Frustrated, I spoke with the front desk once more, and they realized that I was also a member of their hotel chain (I travel quite frequently so I had points with them as well). Fortunately for me, they assisted and told me in the future, to book directly with them, because there is no guarantee when you book through a third party site that you will get what was offered to you. Despite wanting to save a few dollars, I decided the hassle is not worth it, and opted to use the hotels directly for all future travel & built my relationship with them instead.
3. Group Travel is much easier when using a travel consultant
Have you ever tried to plan, and book a group travel? Whether it is with friends, or family? How about a destination wedding? Generally, travel consultants get called upon when these events are taking place, and rightfully so. They can be a PAIN to organize on your own. Negotiating rates with the suppliers (hotels, tour guides, transport companies etc.), and then trying to coordinate round-trip airport transport, or excursions, people’s flights to ensure they a) paid for their flight, b) booked the right one, etc. There is just a lot to get into when planning a group trip. And not everyone is great at it. Travel Consultants are so much help when it comes to large group travels. Especially if everyone is NOT coming from the same place. And even if the group is, being able to organize a flight that everyone can get on is also super important. I helped quite a few friends and family as group travels, and very few people enjoy the planning of it all. I am definitely one of those people, but it can be very stressful and overwhelming to take that task on.
4. Travel Consultants get paid on commission
This myth about consultants being more expensive than booking online through a third party is such an interesting comment to me that I definitely had to bring it here to explain. I was on IG and I asked my followers why they do not use a travel consultant, and quite a few people said because they are more expensive. Travel agents do NOT HAVE to charge a fee. Like a Financial Advisor, they get paid off of commission. The commission off the flights, hotels, excursions, transport companies, travel insurance, etc. is where the agent gets their money. And they get their money once you have returned from your destination. The more they book with those suppliers, the more incentives they receive + their commission. Sounds dope right? So then why do people say it’s more expensive?
And, can you locate a better deal online? Absolutely you could. But your consultant should be putting your needs first. It has to make sense for YOU. If you tell your consultant my budget is XX dollars, they should be working within that budget. Most, if not all consultants will try to go through their suppliers. It only makes sense, they have a) built a relationship with that supplier, b) get incentives with that supplier, c) because they bring business, the suppliers are more inclined to help if something goes wrong. Almost like a favour for a favour. However, if it does NOT make sense for the client, then they should be doing all that they can, to accommodate YOUR needs. Now, there are consultants that charge a fee. Generally the reason for this is because there have been many cases where clients will approach an agent, gather all info and then take that information and book on their own. The planning, locating, searching & potential negotiating a rate for a client, takes time. And time is money. We can all agree to that!
So, some agents will build a service fee into the price to offset the time they spent on locating the deals for you. It’s important, like any other service professional to build that relationship + trust. So that you feel comfortable and your consultant feels comfortable with you. My hair dresser doesn’t tell me I have to give a deposit when I am coming to do my hair. She trusts that if I say I am coming, I will come and will not cancel last minute. I have been going to her for awhile now, and we both have that trust with each other. It’s the same thing with your Travel Consultant. Super important to build that trust with them, so they will look out for you at all costs.
5. Liability Issues
When I traveled to Paris in June 2018, I used an airline called Primeair. I bet you haven’t heard of them before, have you? Well that’s because they are no longer operating a few months after my trip. They were a low budget carrier offering great deals across Europe, and though the service was questionable, it was a great way to grab a deal and go.
It has been seen recently, with the low budget airline carriers that are unable to withstand the market and economy, and thus creating uncertainty when traveling. When booking through a third party site, if you receive a notice at 10pm that the airline you are to return home on the following day, is no longer operating as of midnight, what will you do? That third party site has no liability to you. When you book with those websites, they do not take responsibility for you if something happens. A lot of these airlines also do not provide travel insurance, so if you do not have travel insurance, then there is no other way to get your money back, and you are on your own to locate another flight that you will have to pay out of pocket for, and return home. A travel consultant, can assist you with this emergency, and in the province of Ontario, help you to claim back your money through the Travel Fund. Also, a lot of people think their credit cards have insurance that helps them, but there are limitations and eligibility requirements when you try to claim through them. A travel consultant has access to the policies of these credit cards, and can do a quick check for you to ensure you are completely covered.
I hope this information has helped you to better understand the role of the Travel Consultant and how they can help you. The biggest takeaway is that travel consultants are not for everyone, and its super important to build that relationship with your travel consultant, so that you do not feel they are only working with you to get the most money out of you.
Interview your travel consultant and ask them questions about their own trips, why they have chosen to get into the field of travel. Providing a service that you love, makes a world of a difference in how you treat your guests. I know we have all experienced terrible service before, but that doesn’t mean we have painted the entire industry with the same brush. Travel Consultants are professionals, which means you are paying for their expertise. Be sure to get what you need out of your travel consultant and understand that you are paying for their service.
I thoroughly enjoy providing exceptional experiences, and my clients will tell you that they love the work and detail I put into ensuring they return fulfilled and with the most gratitude.
Now that you’ve read the 5 reasons, are you more inclined to use a travel consultant? Let us know in the comments.
The Luxe and Lavish Team