Travel agents make travel less stressful.
When booking a vacation, destination wedding or honeymoon, the last thing a traveler should have to do is worry.
“It is a special memory in your lifetime that should only result in a pleasant experience all the way through. A travel agent is vital in planning these special memories as they take the worry off of you and let you focus solely on the exciting events to come and what you shall pack,” said Jamie Mussolini, founder and president of Beachfronts Travel LLC in Westchester, NY.
They save you money…
Travel professionals have access to special discount codes and promotions through suppliers. They often can save an additional amount or provide clients with a dining or spa credit that wouldn’t be available when booking through an OTA.
In a 2016 survey of more than 1,200 consumers, nearly one-third spent in excess of four hours, over multiple days, planning their own vacations. Travel advisors create a custom itinerary, pulling together flights, transfers, accommodation, tours, visits, meals and exclusive visits based on your preferences—so you can spend your time on other things.
They don’t charge hidden fees.
In a column for Business Insider, Avery Hartmans described her experience using the Hotels Tonight app for a staycation in New York City – and noted that the prices listed did not include taxes and fees. Hartmans said she was charged an additional $121 in fees for the weekend, an expense she wasn’t expecting; “the extra fees were a bad surprise, and they put us well over budget for the trip,” she said.
Many agents don’t charge fees at all, and those who do are up-front about the cost.
They advocate on your behalf.
A Washington state family, as TMR previously reported, received an email a few weeks before its $874 vacation was cancelled due to overbooking. After hours on the phone, Holly Parsons walked away with $500 in Expedia vouchers and three nights in a Holiday Inn Express.
“I feel for this family that has suffered a horrendous experience not only were they left with no refund but also a cancelled trip,” Mussolini said. That would never have happened if they used a travel agent. “Using one of those websites is taking a risk and can be a setup for a disaster. During peak seasons to find out your trip is cancelled and have no refund is the worst news – but on top of that, trying to scramble to plan something at the last minute is even worse.”
They provide personalized attention.
OTAs provide a one-size-fits-all service, not taking into account the numerous variables that are in play. Travel advisors tailor their services to their clients’ individual needs. Have concerns? They’ll talk you through them. Need a hotel that can cater to your allergies? A travel advisor can speak to hotel managers to make sure it’s taken care of.
“Despite all the websites, clients by the truckload are desperate for a real human voice on the phone. They are clamoring for truly dedicated, genuine customer service and someone willing and eager to sell them what they want,” said Norm Payne, senior consultant at Uniglobe Premiere Travel. “People readily buy from those ready to sell. Really taking care of your clients automatically takes care of your profit margins.”
They offer insurance.
From guaranteeing your hotel is available to knowing if the excursion company is legitimate, booking through a travel agent ensures travelers will not get duped. And they provide insurance for medical emergencies and trip cancellations.
They’re there 24/7.
Travel agents are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They’re there with you throughout the booking process and follow up afterward. On the other hand, contacting an OTA’s customer service line often means wading through a chain of people. Parson said she spent six and a half hours over three days speaking with Expedia’s customer service department.
Agents have a personal understanding of your interests and insight into a specific destinations and segments of travel, like LGBT or destination weddings. A good travel agent spends time getting to know the customer and so can make recommendations tailored to what you want to do.