Busting myths about travel agents
5 years ago, going to a travel agent was a logical and critical step in planning your perfect holiday. However with the increasing presence of online booking websites and “quick booking” solutions it seems that the travel agent has become somewhat of a mythical creature and a lot of misconceptions has arisen around travel agents and the value they offer.
Well we’re here to bust some common myths about travel agents and the services we provide.
1. I can get cheaper prices online than I can when booking through a travel agent.
Online booking websites are famed for being the “so called” cheapest option for booking travel, far cheaper than booking through a travel agent. But while occasionally these websites have extremely cheap rates/limited time promotional rates often they are no cheaper or better value than the rates offered to travel agents. Here’s why:
- Travel agents have access to a multitude of databases giving us the ability to compare prices to find you the best deal.
- When it comes to cheap flights most of the published fares you find on airline websites, travel agents can book directly through a central reservations system.
- Travel agents offer the additional value of fare and airline knowledge that allows us to truly understand the fare conditions and suggest the best fares for your plans.
- Many agencies have direct contracts with airlines giving them access to fares that are even cheaper than the published price.
2. I enjoy the research and planning process of the trip and booking with a travel agent will take away that enjoyment.
A comment we’re hearing more and more is “I don’t book with travel agents because I enjoy the research and planning process of a trip.” We completely understand the enjoyment that comes with booking travel, that’s why we became travel agents and we love clients who come in with a clear plan of what they want. As travel agents we encourage our clients to be actively involved with the planning of their trip.
- We don’t want to take the fun out of the travel planning process but what we’re here to do is take away all the hassle that often comes with planning and booking travel.
- We have the ability to compare prices on flights, hotels etc in the blink of an eye saving you time and money. You tell us what hotel you’ve researched and we’ll find the best price, if that hotel is not available on those dates we’ll find you a similar alternative nearby.
- Travel agents have an exponential amount of travel knowledge. You give us your ideal itinerary and we can often suggest an alternate route that will make your travels more convenient or allow you to experience something unique that interests you such do a detour to a textile weaving village or arrange a meal in a local’s home. It is travel agent connections that allow you to experience unique, amazing and unforgettable travel experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t have known about or had the connections to organise.
3. Travel agents charge surcharges and fees on top of the price.
A common question we get here at Active Travel is “How do you make your money?” There is a common misconception that travel agents make money from charging booking fees and surcharges on top of the package price. While we can’t deny that some agencies do, most travel agents don’t charge any additional costs and Active Travel is one of these. So how do we make any money?
- Travel agents make money from the airlines, hotels, tour operators etc who pay us a commission, what this means for you is that you are not charged any higher price then you would get direct through the travel company.
- Travel companies invest a lot of time and money training up travel agents so that they can be confident to answer your questions in detail and recommend the right product for you.
4. Travel Agents only recommend products that will earn them the most money.
Commission and “preferred products” is a controversial topic amongst travel agents but one we are happy to talk freely about.
- Most travel suppliers, tour operators, airlines etc now offer virtually the same amount of commission to agents. This has removed much of what in the past was incentive to sell one company over another.
- Most boutique travel agencies such as Active Travel are focused on the individual experience of the traveller and giving them the best possible trip, this means listening carefully to your requirements and only recommending the products that most suit your needs, budget and interests regardless of how much commission we can earn.
- There are still a few travel agencies out there including many of the large retail chains where individual agents get a bonus depending on how much commission they earn. This incentivises them to recommend the product with the highest commission and not the best match for the individual traveller.
5. All travel agencies are the same.
Travel agencies aren’t all the same. Just like the range of clothes shops in your local shopping mall each specialising in a particular age group, style and price point, travel agencies also come in all shapes and sizes.
- Some travel agencies are specialists, specialising in travel such as student travel or luxury travel, adventure travel or cruises, or like with many of the large retail chains: packaged holidays and group coach tours.
- Generally small boutique travel agency’s such as Active Travel work on the strengths of their diverse staff and due to the wide and varied travel experiences of staff members, specialise in all kinds of travel all over the world.
- Names are deceiving often not letting on the full breadth of travel experiences and products agencies can book. For example: Don’t let the Active Travel name fool you, we don’t only offer “active” travel options, we can book anything!
- Most travel agencies, even the ones who specialise have access to a full range of travel options including all the big travel brands you see all over the TV such as Scenic Tours, APT, Trafalgar, P&O, Princess Cruises etc. It’s better to ask your agent “Do you sell …such and such tours…?” then assume they don’t because chances are they do sell that product and may even have first hand experience with it.
6. It’s quicker and easier to book online
In today’s fast paced world, time is of the essence and with the instantaneous nature of online booking it is commonly thought that it’s much quicker and easier to book online. While the online booking process itself may only take a few minutes before a confirmation arrives in your inbox it is the research leading up to the booking that takes time.
- On average upwards of 30-40 hours are spent researching online for a short-haul international trip.
- The abundance of choice online begs the inevitable question “How do you know what is reputable?” leading travellers to hours more research on which booking sites are trustworthy and which hotel/tours are exactly what they proclaim to be.
- A 10 minute conversation with your travel agent can avoid hours of research hunched over your computer, phone or tablet that often leads to yet more unanswered questions and even more research and precious time wasted.
- Travel agents often have instantaneous answers to your complex questions and when they don’t, they have access to the most reliable, up to date information direct from local authorities, hotels, airlines, tour operators etc.
- Travel agents only book with reputable, well vouched for suppliers that in many cases are researched first hand and experienced by our staff. At Active Travel we try to work mostly with operators our staff have experienced first hand.
- Travel agencies are regulated and licensed by a central authority and are bound by several consumer protection laws. What that means for you is if things unfortunately do go wrong you can be assured your travel agent will get right on to sorting out the problem and dealing with the suppliers on your behalf saving you time and reducing your stress and burden!
- Online booking websites are not regulated or bound by the same consumer protection laws that travel agents are. Additionally and in most cases they are not even registered or licensed travel agents. What this means is they waiver all responsibility when things go wrong. An example is Trivago a popular booking website that is majority owned by Expedia says:
“Trivago at no time takes the role of a tour operator or travel agency”. It adds: “Offers, in particular those related to the booking of hotels and trips or services or products related to them, are based on the databases and websites of external contracting parties. Trivago takes no liability for the degree of completion and accuracy of these offers.” View the original article here.
Is this the kind of company you really want to hand over your money to, one that leaves you high and dry if things do happen to go wrong?
So before you start planning your next trip have a conversation with our travel agents and see what they can do for you. What is your experience with booking online? Share it in the review box below.