Travel Agent Appreciation Flows as Fellow Service Professionals Tout Their Value

Sponsored by Apple Vacations
by Kerry Tice
Travel Agent Appreciation Flows as Fellow Service Professionals Tout Their Value

Apple Vacations offers nonstop flights to popular beach destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock.com


At a recent mother-daughter school event, I had the unique opportunity to sit and mingle with several other working Moms. The professionals seated at our table ranged from a lawyer and restaurant owner to an accountant and interior decorator, to name just a few. 
 
As our daughters are about to close the chapter on their high school experience and head off to college, the conversation jumped from prom dresses and graduation festivities to, for some, the prospect of being empty-nesters in a few months. The friend sitting to the right of me announced that she and her husband were finally going to take the long-awaited “couples” vacation they have been putting off for far too long.

Being the sole travel journalist in attendance and one always interested to hear the trials and tribulations of the average traveling public, the announcement begged the question: “Are you planning on using a travel agent to book your trip?” I asked.  
 
Without hesitation, she replied “Of course,” to which the mom to the left of me replied, “But, aren’t they a dying breed?” 
 
Yikes … here was my chance to set the record straight, at least that’s what I thought. 
 
Before I could get a word out, the pro-agent Mom intervened to share her thoughts. “I used to book my own travel but when I found Katie and realized that she took all of the stress of planning away, it was a no-brainer.” 
 
As I proceeded to educate the other mom on the benefits of using an agent while equally dispelling common myths like ‘I can get a cheaper rate myself online,’ the mom to the right related the similarities of her own service-oriented profession of interior design to that of a travel agent. 
 
“When I design a room or a house for someone, I get certain preferred rates that my clients would never have access to on their own. That savings is passed onto them. And while I may be charging a fee for my service, they are gaining my expertise and the assurance that there won’t be any major design errors that will cost them more in the long run.” 
 
It was at this point in the conversation that contrasting images of tourists standing on long lines at popular attractions in the blistering heat immediately came to mind, as did the alternative image of a group of informed travelers who pre-purchased their excursions through an agent making their way to the front without incident. 
 
Peace of mind pays dividends
I recently returned from a river cruise where I also had the opportunity to sail for nine days with dozens of couples who had booked their respective trips through travel agents. The feedback from these travelers about their agents was downright endearing. “Cassie takes such good care of us,” said one woman from Texas. “I’m not sure what we would do without our agent,” added another from New Jersey. 
 
A universal feeling of security and trust echoed through each one of their words, making me feel as if I knew their agents personally, or at the very least, that I owed them a phone call to thank them for looking out for these lovely travelers’ best interests.  

So, here is my substitute for that phone call – I hope it does the job. 
 
All too often, travel agents are underrated and underappreciated. With the exception of that one time a year, namely Travel Agent Appreciation Day on May 2, when we are given the opportunity to truly champion their efforts, travel agents are often left with the endless task of proclaiming their own value. In recognition that others are, in fact, touting them as well, recent consumer research from the American Association of Travel Agents (ASTA) speaks volumes to their worth. 

According to a consumer survey of six focus groups of American travelers done in 2017, a whopping 78 percent of those who have used a travel agent in the past five years feel their agent “looks out for them.” This is coupled with a high satisfaction rate that found almost half (49 percent) of those same travelers are “very satisfied” with the service they receive from their agent.

And Millennials may be the most surprising trailblazers of all. The same research showed that this group sees agents as advisors, rather than just “bookers” of travel. Millennials who use travel agents are less likely than older clients to have their agents pick flights but more likely to have them plan activities and experiences – and even help them decide their budget.

The travel agency industry in the U.S. is projected to generate 17.3 billion dollars in revenue by 2020, up from about $15 billion in 2015, according to Statista, a leading provider of consumer and marketing data. Profits of travel agencies have also increased annually in recent years. A decade ago, the industry’s average profit-to-revenue ratio came to six percent. This figure is estimated to have doubled to 12 percent by 2015.

While some consumers mistakenly declare the era of travel agents is over, this combined research proves quite the opposite. In fact, in 2015, over 60 percent of travel agents reported an increase in sales over the previous year, and the share of agents reporting a decrease dropped from 80 percent in 2008 to just 12 percent in 2015.

In case the traveling public has forgotten, here are “Six Reasons Why Travel Agents are Back Stronger Than Ever.” 

When you work in an industry where the value that travel agents bring to the table is apparent on a daily basis, sometimes we forget we need to share that knowledge – and perhaps more than just once a year.      

FROM THE SPONSOR:  There are many reasons the travel agent community loves partnering with Apple Vacations. Here are just a few: 

Non-stop exclusive vacation flights - Apple Vacations drives demand by adding non-stop lift to the marketplace, with non-stop exclusive vacation flights from coast to coast to the most popular beach destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. Airport/hotel transfers are included in the price, even on land-only bookings. 
 
Royalties Rewards – The favorite Rewards Program of travel professionals allows agents to earn points with every booking, which are redeemable for valuable merchandise, free travel and special perks for clients. 
 
The all-new Travel Agent Café – Serving agents 24/7 with all the information and tools they need to help sell better, including customizable flyers, co-op advertising opportunities and exclusive offers, plus educational tools like webinars and independent FAM trip opportunities. Simply log on to www.travelagentcafe.com.
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