Why Use a Travel Agent?
It’s a really good and valid question, and to be honest, sometimes the answer might actually be that you don’t need one! But we’ll come back to that.
Most travel agents now prefer the title travel consultant or similar. Why? It has a lot to do with the advantages they offer today. Still, with all the websites, deal finders, mobile travel apps, and online services, a lot of people ask: why use a travel consultant?
It’s not hard to do it yourself. It might even be fun! Or, it could turn into a huge disaster. Below are a few points to consider before clicking the BUY button or tapping yourself into a nonrefundable corner.
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. Transparency. With websites and apps, you may not know what you’ll actually be paying! Many hotels add nightly “resort fees” of $25 to $50 on top of the discounted rate apps and websites display. Of course, you won’t know about them until you check out. Even rental cars can end up costing double the online rate once extra charges like airport fees, taxes, surcharges and such have been added.
Travel consultants know these little details. They make sure you are never unpleasantly surprised. You’ll always know exactly what you’ll be paying and what you’ll get for it.
4. Options. When you buy a cruise or 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 $150 to $200. Final payment is not due until between 30 to 60 days prior to departure. In many cases, you can change your plans or cancel entirely prior to final payment!
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.
5. 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.
Also, you might have heard that some travel consultants charge fees for their professional service. Like other skilled advisors, the best often do. But fees don’t mean you’ll always pay more. In fact, they’re likely to save you more than you ever imagined.
When You Don’t Need a Travel Consultant
It’s true. Sometimes you might not need a travel consultant. If you’re willing to take some risks, and not be concerned if something goes wrong, you might get lucky with the apps and websites. Many people do. Travel consultants just prefer not to gamble.
by Nolan Burris, Chief Visioneer, Future Proof Travel Solutions