WHY USE A TRAVEL AGENT?
This week we are getting topical, and tackling a question that has been thrown around in our industry a lot since before Covid – 19 hit the world with full force over a year ago.
With the ability to book yourself online and with hundreds of online booking sites flooding our industry, a couple of years ago there was a lot of discourse floating around saying do we really need Travel Agents any more? There was discussion around the fact that people are tech savvy nowadays and booking sites are getting easier and easier to navigate, so anyone could do our job, why use an over priced agent.
Then in the last year the humble travel agent is back in the spotlight again, but this time people are saying we will only book with an agent now. But what has changed so drastically that caused this shift in thinking?
Well a worldwide pandemic that shut the entire world down was pretty much the catalyst that caused the resurgence of the travel agent, but why? The technology of booking sites hasn’t changed so what has? Let’s break this down, and see why it’s more important now to use an agent, especially in a post covid world.
Visa regulations and entry requirements.
In a post Covid world this is a biggie. It’s a major part of our job to be all over this for every country, we need to know what visa you may need for your destination and transit country, and what entry requirements need to be met for your destination on the passport you are travelling on.
When you punch in your destination online, the computer doesn’t know what passport you are travelling on and your amazing third party search engine may bring up the cheapest option for you, but that option may stop in 4 different countries on the way to your destination. The price looks amazing but it wont be so amazing when you turn up to the first airport and get denied boarding because one of these 4 transit countries doesn’t allow your passport in without a visa. Then you read the small print and find out your amazingly cheap ticket is non refundable, so you are now not travelling but your also out of pocket.
In a post covid world, entry requirements and rules around transit destinations are changing constantly, sometimes daily, but part of our job is to be up to date with this information and guide you in the best possibly way we can to get you where you need to be safely and without any mishaps.
This is called the travel agents duty of care, if you read the small print in the terms and conditions of an online booking site (you know the bit most people just tick and don’t read when booking online), it clearly states there , if you read the actual terms and conditions that visa and entry requirements are up to the passenger to look into them selves before booking and travelling. And the third party website holds no responsibility if you are denied boarding for a visa or entry requirement not being met.
What happens when you miss a flight or it gets cancelled?
So this is a common problem we see everyday at the airport. Life happens and sometimes your best laid plans don’t always work. People miss flights for all sorts of reasons. But what happens if this happens to you. Well if you booked with a travel agent we take over this hard part for you, we are all over your tickets fare rules and you can literally call us on the way to the airport and we will jump in and suspend the flight so it can be reissued without any penalty fees being paid and rebook you for a later time if your stuck and running late.
What happens when your agent is a third party online booking site, well good luck. Most online booking sites act on behalf of an airline, they are offering the cheapest possible fares which are usually the most restrictive and can sometime be non refundable and non changeable on day of departure. So in that case you have lost your flight and will have to pay for a whole new one.
Or say it is changeable, but you can’t get ahold of them in time before the flight. Some online sites don’t post a number on their website, they may have an email address or a chat box for assistance, and sometimes when your time critical it can take a wee while to get through to anyone that can help.
This is the same if the airline cancels your service. Something we have seen a lot of since covid is flights been cancelled due to lockdowns and borders opening and shutting due to outbreaks of covid in the community. If your service is cancelled a lot of the time when you book with your agent they are on to the phone to you immediately to let you know what’s happening. Sometimes third party websites will email you and sometimes they don’t and you may get to the airport to discover your flight is no longer operating.
What are you entitled to on a flight?
We are going to go into this subject in more depth in its own post as there is so many things passengers are entitled to that if you book with an agent they will make you aware of, however if you do your own bookings online you could be missing out on these bonuses and benefits.
For example some airlines offer stopover programs, which include highly discounted accommodation, and activities if you book in conjunction with their flights. Agents are signed up to all these programs and can make you aware of this during your holiday consultation.
Some airlines offer free or highly discounted domestic airfares if booked all on one ticket with an international flight. This isn’t advertised to the general public but your travel agent with be all over that information.
There are so many extra options available to passengers but we will have another article soon covering all these benefits you could be missing out on.
We do all the hard work for you.
This is probably the most import part of our job. We handle the planning, we talk with suppliers and make sure we are getting you what you really want.
You can get some amazing deals on line but no one can tailor make a package like your local travel agent. When you pop into store we have a discussion with you first before we touch the computer and start bringing up prices. There are key things we are looking for from these conversations. The first most important thing is who are our travelers? What do they like? What don’t they like? What kind of holiday are they looking for? One important question we will ask is “What’s taking you there?” We do this so we don’t sell and action packed adventure holiday to a family that have two children under the age of 4 for example looking for something child friendly. We ask these questions to cater the holiday we put together to our travelers specific needs and wants.
Then we look at a budget, we don’t want to be offering you a five star all inclusive hotel if your budget is a three star budget. This is the quickest way to put a customer off by offering something completely out of their price range that they now think they cant afford to travel to this destination anymore, so that’s why we start with these crucial conversations.
The most import thing we do is listen, we want to know what you want, and sometimes your not sure so we can help guide you but sometimes you have a plan and just don’t know how to execute it, then we can step in and get it sorted for you.
From the conversation we can start building you dream holiday, that’s why we are in this business – we make holiday dreams come true. We offer options and personal recommendations from our own travels there. Remember we love travel just as much if not more, so that’s why we do the job we do, so we get just as excited as you do, and you will hear us asking “how does that sound?” to gauge if our suggestions are on the right track.
Everything is done for you and that takes it out of your hands and when things go wrong, which sometimes they do, we are there to make it right, so you can continue enjoying your dream holiday. And all that left to do is for you to get excited and get packing.
An online booking site is for point and click travel planning, if you want someone to take your dreams and make them a reality, then come on down and let your local travel agent take care of you. We will get just as excited for you as you are.
As always, if you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out to us via email, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, we are always happy to help.
Safe travels xx