As business for 2018 begins to build, we asked travel agents why they think travelers should never travel without an advisor behind them heading into the New Year. Here’s what they said:
1. Storms and natural disasters are making travel more difficult.
This year has been a particularly tough one for travel, with natural disasters and system failures overwhelming some suppliers. But travel agents have the access and the knowledge to help speed your re-accommodation, and act as your advocate when there are problems. When you book with an agent you can reach out to an actual person with whom you have built a trust relationship. Travel agents can help change travel dates due to weather, or change the destination completely. They can hold cruise and air options for you and confirm your hotel before booking a non-refundable reservation. And in these weather-affected times, no client wants to sit on hold with the airlines or a tour operator for hours—so let a travel agent do the work for you.
2. Life is busier and more demanding than ever, and vacation time is more valuable.
There is no do-over for a vacation gone wrong. Travel agents can help you achieve the vacation you desire because they listen, suggest, adjust, understand and become a friend... not just a search engine or an anonymous voice. “They do the work, you pack and go!”
3. Travel agents add a human element.
A travel professional ensures that you are a person, not a number. They are invested in their clients' happiness and satisfaction and want to make sure each and every trip is packed full of positive lifelong memories. They are with you before, during and after your trip—kind of like "for better or for worse." Travel agents answer their phones and respond to their email no matter where you are on the planet.
4. Trips are more complicated than ever, as the number of multi-generational vacations and destination weddings continues to grow.
Multi-generational vacations are still very much in demand. Baby Boomers are paying big money to take their kids and grandkids on high-end vacations. Because planning travel with a multitude of people is a challenge, a travel agent is a perfect choice to be the “middleman” and provide assistance to plan a perfect family vacation.
5. The world is constantly changing, and travel agents are on the ground experiencing it.
Has the Caribbean recovered from the latest hurricane? Can Americans travel to Cuba these days? Has the smoke cleared in Napa? Travel advisors don't just sell a destination—they discover, research and experience the places they offer over and over, sharing the actual and current status quo with their customers. Just like in everyday life, it takes a village to understand the dynamics of every destination. Why do it alone if you don't have to? And travel agents are critical to their clients when they need to help change their travel dates due to weather, or change the destination completely. In the winter months snow and ice can cause travel delays and missed connections. In these weather-affected times, no client wants to sit on hold with the airlines or tour operator for hours.
6. They save you so much time and stress.
Sure, reading about places to go is fun and enticing—but planning a trip is stressful. There is so much data available online, in magazines and books, and even on TV. Travel agents travel for work, looking at everything from the size of the rooms at hotels and cruise ships to the dining options that are available, onsite and nearby. And if they haven't personally been where you want to go, a colleague has or their preferred tour operators have. They know the hidden gems in a given destination because they've either seen it, or because they listened to the previous client who came home and raved about something they found by chance. They also tend to specialize in destinations or niches like LGBT or Special Needs travel. Every time they travel they are focusing on these details—so customers can just dream about their destination and not have to worry.
7. They often save you money—and if not, they deliver more value.
Even if your travel agent charges a fee, the value you receive will be bigger than what you paid. Ariel Chavez, with New Frontier Travel, for instance, noted that one of his new clients had been booking group cruises directly for many years—and never knew he could receive group amenities and discounts. He thought using a travel agent would cost extra when in fact using an agent can save you money and get you extras and insider access.
8. They can reassure anxious travelers because they know where you should go and where you shouldn’t.
Betsy Bouche of Largay Travel Inc. counted 20 separate travel advisories in September 2016; the first two weeks of October brought 10 more. The two months saw 10 hurricanes, 3 earthquakes, 5 strikes against travel suppliers, 2 shootings/bombings, 1 airline bankruptcy, 2 major wildfires, 1 airline fuel shortage, 1 volcano about to erupt, Ryanair flight cancellations, 1 visa suspension (Turkey), 1 State Department warning (Cuba), and 1 named snowstorm. Anyone care to navigate that on their own? People are nervous, anxious and unsure. Agents feel a huge responsibility to explain, re-assure and assist their clients in making the best possible choices. And now, with all the devastation and destruction from Mother Nature, they can be instrumental in helping to decipher what destinations are accessible.
9. They offer unique services for discerning clients.
Marketing to the masses is pointless for travel agents, says Mary Misinco, a travel advisor at Travel Experts, Inc. in Macon, Ga. “Our services are not for everyone, they are for those that appreciate that they do this for not just a living, but because it is how they make life and travel better. They are the whisper, not the shout out. Exclusive.”
10. Like any professional advisor, they know more than you do.
Should you book that Rhine River cruise heading north or heading south? Travel agents know which hotel rooms have the best view room; they know you should renew your passport six months before it expires; they know you should bring your own road maps in Europe because rental car companies don't provide them. They can recommend a private guide instead of a ship excursion, an interesting destination along the way, a chance to get off the beaten track and see something uniquely important to you.
Thanks to everyone whose comments we included here: Christine Marilyn Bince, Betsy Bouche, Lisa M Chaffee, Ariel Chavez, Kimberlee Felton Evans, Beverly Falley, Kristi Huss, Beth Eibler Johnston, Geri Bain Keroack, Mary Misinco, George Moore, Rob Stern, Anna Nelson Swenson, Cathy Udovch, Sandra Weinacht, and Roberta Westwood.