This year promises to be a busy one for the travel industry, as record numbers of travelers take to the skies, the rivers and the seas. With more ships, more flights and less legroom than ever, Travel Market Report asked travel agents why they think a traveler should never travel without a professional travel advisor behind them. It’s a good list to share with your clients and prospects. Here’s what they said:
We uncovered so much good information on this topic that we just had to share a few more comments with you.
David Liotta, of Flight Centre, offered a compelling insight: “Here’s the Starbucks Analogy. One of the most popular and successful companies in America makes and sells something that almost everyone is capable of making for themselves at home. But people want the experience of buying from Starbucks, which includes the atmosphere and the skills of the barista. Starbucks also creates specialized products and they are experts in putting them together. You can get all sorts of fancy, complex drinks you didn’t even think of before. Sure, you can make coffee at home, but how many of us would be able to create a complex concoction, and do it with the speed and consistency of a Starbucks barista? Because of all this, people readily pay more to buy from Starbucks, and no one would ever think of demanding that they price-match McDonalds coffee or complain to the barista that they could make the same thing themselves.”
The most common theme and benefit of using a travel agent, as it is reiterated in several of the items on our top 10 list above, is how they help consumers sort through the overwhelming amount of travel options available today. Tom Carr, of Preferred Vacations LLC, said: “The evolution of unbundled airfares will continue in 2019. Basic Economy and other ‘innovations’ pose great challenges for the uninformed traveler. When the rules change, agents are uniquely positioned to provide vital advice.”
In full agreement, Teri Hurley, of Endless Love Travel, noted: “We have what do-it-yourselfers don’t, including ladders to climb and buttons to push. But most of all, we save people from themselves. Crowd-sourcing strangers on social media sites is a sure-fire recipe for trip disaster.”
Karen Quinn-Panzer, of Dream Vacations Quinn-Panzer Travel, said: “It’s a challenging cruise industry out there, and travel agents help people sort through all the cruise lines with dozens of cabin categories and multiple rate codes, refundable vs. non-refundable rates, guaranteed cabins vs. cabins with free perks. We help people find the best offer based on what’s most important to them.”
“Like an Alexa or Siri in the palm of your hand, I’m just a quick call, text, email or Facebook message away,” quipped Dillon Guyer, of Guyer Travel International.
Travel advisors can also be heroes for their clients. Mark Gelfand, general counsel at National Dental and a customer of Teri Axel at Herricks Travel, commented: “My travel agent can do anything, from a birthday celebration in Aruba for 120 people to an intimate getaway in Jamaica with my wife. I just love working with her because she takes on all the stress, and I just go and enjoy myself.”
Then, there’s the matter of sorting out travel challenges when a trip goes awry. A frequent traveler, JP Acco, described: “True story … After a 23-hour flight to Bangkok, the hotel front desk told us our reservation had been canceled. We said, ‘Here is the telephone number of our travel agent. Please call him and ask what happened to our reservation.’ Clerk came back 10 minutes later and said he had found it. In the past, we’ve booked with Expedia and Airbnb and have been disappointed, and had to fix problems ourselves. But that takes patience — and after a 23-hour flight, I have no patience. Get an agent, who needs that stress?”
A customer of travel advisor Sandy Farber said: “We just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe where we had a problem with one of the airlines, and Sandy had us booked on another flight before anyone else on the plane even knew there was a problem.”
In dealing with clients, travel agent John Sposato likes to add in some extras. He said: “I’m a believer in investing in my clients. I purchase things for them to help enhance their trip (a specific excursion, a goodie bag of maps and other items); I email checklists and other documents I have compiled over the years about things to do and top concerns.”
The depth of one agent’s passion for the industry and her clients is demonstrated in a comment from Suzanne Haire, of All Travel Company. She said: “Beyond the industry basics – the industry and product knowledge, time and cost savings, truthful and honest information and some upgraded perks, it really comes down to the fact that I run my business on a ‘Know me, like me, and trust me’ basis. Please DO friend me on Facebook. Please DO ask me questions or tell me things you just want to get off your mind. Please DO come to my Client Appreciation nights so we can say hello.”