Generally in life, if we want a job doing well, we call in a professional. If there is a leak, we call a plumber and if the car stops, we call a mechanic. However, the current trend has been to cut out the professionally trained and qualified travel agent, and to do the job ourselves. It is true that with the huge amount of information available on the internet, and a host of booking websites offering discounts, almost anyone can book a hotel, flight or vacation, but do they really get the best deal?
An experienced travel professional has unrivaled experience in the world of travel, working 40 hours a week for many years. A professional travel agent or broker will have access to a huge choice of services from contracted suppliers and can see the whole picture, not just choosing the first option that ticks all the boxes. For example, an agent may see that a flight is a few dollars more, but saves you hours of travelling time. They can view all the possible connections and combinations and can spend time trawling through the options with their sophisticated Travel Agent’s Reservations System, as that is their job.
The current reluctance to use a travel agent stems from the belief that we are saving money if we book ourselves. However, you the customer are not being charged a penny by the travel agent. They do not add a fee to your booking. Instead, companies make their hotels, flights etc. available to brokers at preferential rates, as travel agents generally are going to be much better clients than individuals to deal with. It is the suppliers who pay the brokers a commission for their business, not the customer.
The advantages of using a travel agent are many. Their sophisticated browsers and software can sift through thousands of combinations and fares. They do not just throw up the cheapest fares but they also look for the best schedules for you. In the International arena, travel agents still provide the most business to airlines and consequently have the best inventory and prices from them. Agents can also watch potential bookings on your behalf and monitor the sales of a particular flight to get you the very best deal using their professional knowledge of the industry. Furthermore, international flights offer a mind-blowing number of possibilities, with a huge combination of airlines and flight connections which a home-based computer and a small booking company cannot possibly hope to compete with.
The key to getting the most from your travel agent is to build up a rapport as a long-standing customer with them. That way, you can request perks such as free parking in hotels, cabin upgrades and maybe an additional hotel night free. You will be the first to be notified of special deals. In the end, these perks are worth cash in your pocket and are hidden benefits which, although not immediately apparent, do save you money.
Choosing the right travel agent is part of this process. Look for an agency registered in the state you live in. Ask if they are members of international travel organizations such as IATA (International Air Transport Association), ARC (Airline Reporting Corporation) or ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents). Make sure they are bonded and insured so that your booking is guaranteed should an airline cease trading. It is much easier to get recompense through a travel agent, than if you have made the booking yourself through an unknown internet booking company who has no position of strength for negotiating recompense. In the current economic climate, when even the largest companies are struggling, it makes sense to use a professional. Should problems arise travel agents are worth their weight in gold as they do the job they are trained and specialized in.