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The role of a traditional travel agent has changed drastically over the years, as they have morphed from just ticket-booking individuals to travel advisors, offering curated experiences. Even premium credit cards and Elite membership in loyalty programs now offer concierge services which straddle the world between booking agents and travel advisors. As someone who enjoys planning trips, I don’t often engage with the typical travel agent. However, I think back to my rigorous work-travel years, and I wouldn’t blink twice before calling my advisor to book a 13-leg, 3-week trip. As a leisure traveller now, I rarely seek out agents or advisors to book my trip. Below, I discuss factors one should consider while deciding on the need for a travel agent.
Time and Convenience
Pros: Using the service of a travel agent or an advisor can be a very hands-off experience. Provide the details, get on with your life, and the agent takes care of your needs. Travel agents are both time-saving and highly convenient options for people pressed for time or just couldn’t be bothered with scavenging for deals online. Does the work trip include a complex travel itinerary? A good travel agent is your best friend. Are you planning a dream vacation with multiple destinations and experiences? Travel Agent is best.
Cons: Working with an agent you trust and who understands your travel needs best is essential. Nothing is more frustrating than a back and forth with a travel agent who cannot ‘make things happen.’ The time and convenience factor can erode quickly and become frustrating if your expectations are unmet. For a short itinerary, booking online is the most accessible and convenient option.
Price Point and Expertise
Pros: Travel agents bring with them a wealth of experience and are subject matter experts who can snag a great deal and know the best time to travel, recommend local experiences and build the best package possible. Travel agents leverage their industry connections and can significantly enhance your travel experience with perks and upgrades (think Virtuoso).
Cons: Travel agents don’t always present the cheapest option. If you are price sensitive, booking online is often the most affordable, especially during promotions and sales (think Black Friday, for example). While travel advisors can add perks and value add-ons, they don’t come cheap, considering service fees and commission margins). Everyone’s definitions of luxury vary, and a travel agent’s definition may differ wildly from yours. Ditto for ‘cheap.’
Reliability and Travel hiccups
Pros: Travel agents help minimize unpleasant surprises through re-bookings, different routing/products, fee waivers etc. If you are stuck at an airport, agents can often be easier to get hold of, re-plan your itinerary as needed. Depending on your needs, a travel agent is also best suited to recommend insurance plans based on your destination and personal profile. Think of any travel-related hiccup and the need to speak with a human to get things sorted; travel agents are the easiest to work with.
Cons: Availability of travel agents and 24/7 service model is hard to come by and expensive when it does. Access to a travel agent outside their business hours is a severe barrier, especially during travel interruptions. Many travel agents stop working for you once their invoice is paid. “missed connection? Contact the airline” is not unheard of. DIY bookings are often easier to alter than wait for a travel agent.
You do you. There is always room for a good travel advisor, and a good travel agent builds clientele with word-of-mouth. Finding the right travel advisor for your needs is also an exercise. Regardless of who does the planning/booking, ensure you travel with all necessary documentation and do your due diligence. So no matter which way you lean, it’s never a complete hand-off process 🙂
Have you used a travel agent before? Share your thoughts with a comment below!
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