Condé Nast Traveler is promoting travel agents and the value they create for consumers through a podcast it published last week on its Travelogue SoundCloud program.
The 42-minute podcast, “Why you should be using a travel specialist,” was broadcast Friday, Feb. 17. It covered when and why consumers should use travel specialists, and “all things specialized travel.” Featured guests were Laura Redmond, deputy digital director, Paul Brady, senior editor, and Mark Elwood, a contributing editor.
Agents should reframe themselves as “travel specialists” to more clearly define their expertise and enhanced value, the panel agreed. Brady said being a travel agent, or specialist today, is less about booking an airline fllight and “more about, ‘Can you get me in touch with the best people of the street food market in Mexico City?' "
“The secret's in the word 'special,' someone who has in-depth knowledge of a city, region or style of travel and can offer guidance. Maybe it's a cruise guru, or a Caribbean know-it-all; it could also be an expert in navigating the ever-changing rules of Cuba travel. Online flight tools like Kayak and Cheapflights have changed an agent's role drastically, but there's still demand for trip planners—the living, breathing kind—to help you find the best hotel for your honeymoon, the right safari for the family, or, simply, a great place to go on vacation when time and inspiration are lacking.”
(Travel Market Report agrees of course. We've published a number of articles about the importance of agents recently, including 10 Reasons To Use A Travel Agent In 2017, Eight Ways Agents Add Value in 2017 and Seven Times Its Worth Using A Travel Agent.)
Condé Nast introduces its podcast by saying, “Yes, travel agents do still exist. It's a big, wide travel world out there, with room enough for luxury travel planners at Virtuoso and virtual assistants.”
The podcast promises to explain "what a travel specialist really is, when you should call on one for help, and how to find someone who won't stick you on a lame tour led by a guide with an umbrella.”
Brady noted that a travel professional may not be needed for "a short trip to Baltimore." But for an international trip with multiple travelers, he said, “isn’t it nice to have an air traffic controller” tracking all the moving parts of the vacation.
Elwood noted that luxury hotels offer more to consumers who book through travel specialists, including upgrades and perhaps free meals, as an incentive for agents to drive more clients to them.
The panelists also agreed that agents who travel extensively make the best specialists, because they have a passion for and experience visiting a country or region with. Elwood said this results in “granular knowledge of particular places.”
Redmond said there is still room for “old school” travel agents, who are more focused on transactions for clients who simply don’t want to book direct or online.