Recently one website member who goes by the handle Farbster started a thread asking, “What do we want from a travel agent?”
The answer was, “I like the idea that perhaps they've been to the place I'm going and can give some insight; perhaps the agent has actually been there and knows people at your destination. If the agent has a relationship with someone at your hotel, I would imagine better service would result.”
The discussion was on Flyertalk, a website where several hundred thousand frequent fliers share their knowledge on how to turn miles and points into first-class flights in the suites on Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines and visits to Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal or British Airways’ Concorde Room. Road warriors trade tips on the most cost-effective ways to gain elite status, and talk about their “mileage runs,” flights taken for the sole purpose of gaining status in various programs.
(There also are forums for the various airline and hotel programs, and a Luxury Hotels and Travel forum to cover independent hotels and hotels from groups that don’t have consumer loyalty programs.)
Another poster who goes by DSI commented that he wants “someone that is nice, honest, helpful and respectful so that I could feel good about helping them with their livelihood. There is one other TA who no longer posts on this forum who wanted a booking fee or deposit of sorts from me ‘to protect their time,’ and I was thinking, ‘whoa, what about my time? What if you make a mistake or aren't as efficient as you need to be? How am I also protected?’"?
DSI added, another reason to use an agent is, “If there are legitimate upgrades on bookings that I can't otherwise secure myself.”
MSPEconomist, who is a Delta Diamond and Star Alliance Gold, posted, “I never use OLTAs (online travel agents). Competence requirements include being able to book the flight segments I want using the fare classes I specify and never giving me a package/bulk/consolidator fare unless I explicitly agree. I expect a good travel agent to be willing and able to contact hotels, etc., about details and questions. If they don't know an answer, such as how room categories differ, they should offer to find out and then do so promptly and accurately without nagging. The agent should have excellent awareness of good deals such as upgrades and fourth-night-free-type offers.”
Other requisites of a good agent, according to MSPEconomist are, “In addition to being knowledgeable (which tends to require that the travel agent himself/herself be well traveled), including being up to date about changes that could impact my trip, I expect my travel agent to advocate for me effectively when appropriate and to solve problems. The responsibility doesn't end when the reservations are complete and tickets issued.
“Ethics should be above reproach, but please don't disturb me with political correctness or your own views about the environment, veganism, etc.”
A poster who goes by Pausanias wrote, “For complex itineraries in Africa, China or India I think a TA might be advisable. I'm going on an organized tour to some of the 'stans this year and I don't think I could have arranged it myself. Last year I did an overland tour across Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and I doubt I could have done it without that group tour overcoat.”
Bangkok-based Mike from Tokyo wrote, “ I only book through TAs for added value and negotiation power. Also, another reason is that some very hotels and resorts have lousy reservations departments, so it's just much better to bypass that entirely and have a TA book or just use FHR.”
“For me, the value of the agent is to recommend suitable hotels in cities where I am visiting for the first time and also more importantly, to secure upgrades and act as a liaison with the hotel to ensure the property knows my preferences and needs…I have been using the same agent to book my holiday (and sometimes business) travel for many years. He knows my habits and requirement down to specific room type and amenities preference so it's great I don't need to repeat them.?My only ‘small’ complaint is that he doesn't always reply quickly,” posted Benlee from Jakarta.