What's The Point Of Using A Travel Agent - Macleans.ca

What’s The Point Of Using A Travel Agent

Do you still need to use a travel agent in the Internet age?


It’s a much debated question, and the answer depends on factors like the complexity of your travel needs, your knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of the travel business, and the amount of time you’re willing to invest in your own travel planning.

“There is no doubt that today’s travellers have more options than ever before, from destinations, packages and pricing to shopping and booking methods. But the most important decision a traveller can make is selecting the right travel agent,” says Chris Russo, president and chair of the American Society of Travel Agents.

Russo’s organization suggests several reasons why travellers should consider using the services of a professional travel agent:

Time & Service
Talking face-to-face with a travel expert can reduce the hours you have to spend in front of a computer screen. Researching destinations and reading reviews can be lots of fun – and travel agents love educated customers — but the process of matching up flights, accommodations, times and prices is far more tedious. A good agent has the tools to take care of the transactional part of the deal quickly and accurately, usually for the same or a better price you’ll find on your own.

Customer advocacy
“If you have a problem with a particular part of your travel experience, the agent is there to act on your behalf to see that restitution is made.”  ASTA’s right: it’s nice to have someone to call when little emergencies crop up, from not getting the type of room you were promised to finding out that your tour operator or charter airline has gone bust.

Professional Advice
Agents are there to make sure you get where you want to go, when you want to go and for the lowest price. They can decipher the jargon and codes of travel, so you don’t have to.

Unbiased Information
Even though agents earn commission on some of the products they sell, their job is to work for you, not the supplier. Happy customers are repeat customers, so your satisfaction is paramount. Ask an agent up front about any additional fees, including service fees.

There are fewer travel agencies today than there were a decade ago. But those who are in business today tend to be specialists in various types of travel or destinations. A Canadian organization similar to ASTA – the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), has an agency directory you can access through its website. You can search by specialty as well as location.

“Being a travel agent is more than just selling travel. It takes training, attention to detail and expertise to keep clients happy and coming back,” says Russo. “Travel agents are there for their clients before, during and after the trip, and when the unexpected happens. We provide value, expertise, convenience and personal service to our customers and understand that travel planning isn’t just about places, it’s about people.”

Illustration Credits: Sean Kapitain

Filed under:

What’s The Point Of Using A Travel Agent

  1. What's The Point Of Using A Travel Agent[?]

    After an agent almost made a complete mess of our honeymoon a long time ago, I figured I never would use one again. Then a nonprofit wanted to send this volunteer (me) to a conference outside of LA a few years ago, and their travel agent offered an expensive ticket with lousy times and ridiculous connections. After ten minutes online I found something better — way way better — and cheaper. So the nonprofit asked the travel agent to book what I had found instead. Duh.

    Somehow I have managed to travel just fine without a travel agent for many years. I cannot imagine ever dealing with one again.

  2. I've had nothing but great experiences with travel agents; but they do have to make their money somewhere, (you), and booking your own trip has never been easier. Disappointment in accommodation promises is a looming cloud, but comment sections can help. When you have reviews on a hotel or location that are both fantastic and thumbs down on the same place, you realize that opinions can be subjective. Vacation disasters and vacation nirvanas can happen both with and without a travel agent. I like agents because they seem to know about the little hole-in-the-wall edens that you might miss.

  3. I do prefer to make my own arrangements.
    I negoiated a $20,000 family vacation through a travel agent recently.
    although I specified very specific room arrangements, I had to sort it all out on my own once I reached the hotel. also, it was at chistmas time and the travel could not advise if the hotel had any christmas celebrations. He was quite sure there were non.I had to find out myself. The hotel in question did have a wonderful christmas eve celebration in the restaurant as well as Santa arrived on the beach on Christmas Day. I was disappointed that the agent did not know this.

    if agents are to survive, they have to be better educated on where they are sending the clients. My rep said he had been to my vacation destination many times.

    Middle men will soon be gone unless they provide some good old fashion service.

  4. Having had a couple of bad experiences with travel agents, we did not use any for more than a decade for our annual trips to somewhere warm.No, I don't mean to Florida, but to anywhere in the world. Its a lot of work to organize an extensive trip and I can't say that I particularly enjoy it. So,after hearing about an extensive cruise at a decent price, and after getting fed up talking to a true nincompoop at the cruise line, we decided to let the local travel agency make the arrangements.All looked well,but I could not help it , I double-checked, and guess what? The flight to Rio De Janeiro was booked for the day AFTER the Cruise ship's departure date!!! I am just glad these "Professionals" are not building bridges or airplanes!

  5. I must say, you all must have not had very good agents , and just like any profession there are those whom are better than others! I have never had a bad experience with an agent. It does not necessarily cost more to book with an agent, as they can find exactly what you can,or better as they have access to bulk pricing or negotiated rates. When I don't have time to "research" I know my travel agent does! Or even if i just need some helpful advice she always points me in the right direction. And never fail, if I was in a pickle I know who to call no doubt ! just find one who understands your needs and that you trust and you won't regret it !