When I tell people I’m a travel agent, most people give me a concerning look, as if to say travel agents still exist? To which I respond — why yes, we do exist. In fact, our industry has been growing consistently over the last five years!
Part of this is due to the fact that more people are traveling. However, the other side of that coin is online travel agencies simply can’t compete with the personalized services offered by travel advisors. More than that, travelers are becoming inundated by an overabundance of information — fed up with price discrimination/steering, hidden taxes and fees, and subpar customer service experiences.
When it comes to planning and booking a vacation, you may be unaware of the high price involved in booking travel online. And I’m not just talking about your precious money — I’m talking about your precious time as well. Studies have shown that in the US alone, travelers spend around 9 billion minutes on travel sites; and, in the some 45 days prior to booking a trip, they make nearly 150 visits to travel sites. That’s a good chunk of time people!
You might also be surprised to learn how a travel advisor (modern-day travel agent) can save you almost a day’s worth of planning and over $400 (or euros) on your vacation. And not only that, but how we can provide you with a level of service no online travel agency can match.
The Truth Behind Online Travel Agencies
Some of the most popular online travel agencies (OTAs) — like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, and Orbitz — might not be getting you the deal you think you’re getting. Online agencies lead you to believe they have access to an unlimited inventory of flights, hotel rooms and rental cars, when in reality, you’re only seeing a small portion of what’s available. You’re seeing what they want you to see.
Prices are constantly shifting due to supply and demand. A reservation that may have been there five minutes ago is either gone now or significantly more expensive. To make matters worse, OTAs algorithms know when and how you’re booking and may adjust their pricing accordingly. And don’t even get me started on the extra charges. If you’ve ever gotten to the checkout of an OTA only to be bombarded with hidden taxes and fees, you’ll understand precisely the frustration I’m talking about.
Not only can travel advisors not do this — they won’t. Why? Because gaining a client’s full trust, getting them the most value out of their time and money, and designing one-of-a-kind vacations is at the core of what we do. We wouldn’t have jobs otherwise! Here are some other things we do that online travel agencies can’t:
Provide Our Expertise
More than 50% of people have no destination in mind when they start planning a trip. That’s why they spend hours and hours scouring the web for ideas. The problem with this is that most people don’t leave that soul-sucking research session feeling inspired; they end up feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Travel advisors have extensive and well-founded industry knowledge that will ensure travelers get the most value for their time and money spent. We take the time to streamline the over abundance of information available on the web so you don’t have to.
Secure Price Locks
Remember that ticket that was $693 on Kayak 5 minutes ago? Well— while you were in the kitchen making yourself a steamy cup of coffee the price went up to $928. Yikes! OTAs prices fluctuate by the minute, and might even change before you reach checkout. Travel advisors can put a hold on a price for 24 hours to guarantee your price.
Charge Flat Rates
So you give in and select that $928 ticket— only to get hit with extra taxes and fees during checkout. Now the ticket that was supposed to be $693 (and then $928) is now well over a thousand! The beauty of hiring your very own travel advisor is that we’ll provide you with transparent price quotes and full travel costs before a final payment is made.
Gain Access To Real Perks
Online travel agencies no longer have access to the vendor discounts they used to. Suppliers (i.e. hotels and airlines) smartened up by having contracts where OTAs are not able to advertise prices lower than what a traveler could find directly on the brand site. Travel advisors have strong relationships with vendors, this translates to occasional discount codes, promotions and travel perks.
Offer Constant Support
Have you ever gone to the ticket counter for a particular airline to ask about making a change to your reservation only to hear these dreaded words — “Unfortunately you’ve booked this ticket through a third party and we are not able to make any changes to your reservation. Please contact the online agency you purchased this ticket from.” Travelers will indeed be forced to pay a premium for last-minute booking, cancellation or changes to an existing reservation with an OTA. Travel advisors, on the other hand, will take advantage of their vendor relationships to advocate for travelers when unexpected changes occur. Instead of going around in circles with the airline or OTA, simply shoot your travel advisor a text message or phone call and they’ll handle the situation for you.
There are some who say the days of traditional “travel agents” are long gone, believing that we’ve since been replaced by online travel agencies like TripAdvisor and Expedia. However, I’ve just given you plenty of reason to believe otherwise. Travel advisors have the expertise, tools, and professional relationships that can mean the difference between a vacation from you-know-where and the vacation of your dreams.
Written by: Kirsten Almquist