Given the vast amount of readily available online resources when making reservations, many persons may say “Why use a travel agent? I can do this myself.” But what they may have failed to realize, or find out later on, is that it comes down to the value you receive. Today, consumers have the ability to book online for airline tickets, hotels, rental cars, cruises and all-inclusive holiday packages. But travel agents still exist, having evolved from travel bookers to travel consultants.
Research has shown that most consumers still choose to arrange their business trips and vacations by working with a professional travel agent. More than 30,000 travel agencies in America (and an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 independent agents who work from their homes) sell 95% of all cruises, 70% of airline tickets, and 30%-40% of car rentals, hotel reservations, and tour packages purchased by U.S. travelers. Even in the Caribbean region people continue to place their confidence in travel agents to ensure their vacation that they so look forward to, turns out to be a memorable experience.
While some consumers simply want ticketing assistance e.g., I'm going from St.Kitts to Miami and I need a cheap ticket on this date), other travelers need a completely customized travel package, including air, hotel, car rental and other services (e.g. We're taking the kids to Disney World —put together a trip for us). Other consumers view their travel agents as counselors, relying on their recommendations to decide where they should go e.g., Give me some ideas about a romantic holiday in Mexico or Las Vegas or should we take a cruise instead?
Contrary to popular belief, a travel agent won't always cost more. Some experts say that using a travel agent will often cost about the same as booking it yourself. However, you save a lot of time and could get sound advice that you will not find online and end up getting better value for your money. Some people enjoy planning trips, while others consider it an arduous chore. Research for even a simple trip can consume hours. Whereas a travel agent can ease that burden and do the research and present you with options, making the process less time-consuming for you. Where you may not have saved money you would definitely gain value and time.
As travel agents we consider the act of booking your trip to be just the beginning of the transaction and relationship, not the end like the result of click-to-book methods. Once you have paid, you are done with the click-to-book way. Now all you have to do is make it to the airport on time for that flight and that is the end of it. In today's world, prices, availability and even the nature of travel are changing at a rapid pace. Websites update pricing and availability but offer little or no hope of passing new benefits available after the sale along to travelers. Click-to-book methods are pretty much done with you after payment is made.
Besides counsel on bookings, we as travel agents can advise you on such issues as exchange rates, travel insurance, crowds, weather, competency of tours, areas of a town to avoid, travel visas, vaccinations, passports, tipping etiquette, packing lists and trip cancellation penalties and restrictions. A travel agent can also discuss with you which airlines charge for checked bags or roomier exit-row seating.
Travel agents can help you navigate the sea of cruise types: from large or small ships to family or adult-oriented ships. We can also suggest cruises that match your personality, offer insights on itineraries, cabin selection, and dining options. Travel agents can guide you if something goes wrong before the cruise ship ever leaves the dock. If you book a cruise with an online discounter, which doesn't typically have the resources to offer customer service and hand-holding, you'll be on our own if issues crop up.
This is also the case with airline bookings. If something goes wrong and a flight is cancelled or delayed or a connection is missed there is no one online to assist you in modifying your itinerary. Whereas, if you book your trip through a travel agent then help is simply a phone call away.
It is our mission as travel agents to build and maintain ongoing business relationships with you and we are easily accessible. Try emailing, tweeting or calling your click-to-book website. Should your plans change, should you have questions or should you want to know more about where you are traveling and how you are getting there, your agent is just a phone call, email or tweet away.
So before you click, consider the following:
- The biggest trap when booking online is websites that use multiple currencies, or quote in US dollars - a potentially rude shock when converted.
- Some hotels and tour operators have similar names, a problem that has caused many travelers to end up in the wrong place. Car rental companies have also had problems with online bookings for the wrong city, such as Sydney in Canada instead of Sydney, Australia.
- Many internet deals are also non-refundable, so travelers who accidentally click on the wrong dates or click to accept terms and conditions without reading can find themselves ‘out of pocket’.
- Hidden fees and Security: Internet booking sites often advertise low rates to attract the customer but then they charge some hidden fees. Booking online requires payment in advance and this could put the customer at risk through an unsecured website.
- There might be a case that you will find testimonials on the website but you never can be sure whether it is a paid advertisement or genuine. Booking online rarely gives a customer the chance to speak with someone about the service.
- Specific Needs: Customers cannot confirm the specific requirements while making an internet booking.
So are you ready to plan your next vacation? Why not call your travel agent today who can plan your trip, thus avoiding all the hassles.