To some, travel agents sailed away into the sunset in the ’90s along with fluoro socks, the Spice Girls and stonewashed ripped denim.
But hang on a second – hold the phone there Celine Dion, because those ’90s icons are back in fashion again, and so are travel agents.
Believe it or not, much like smashing out “Wannabe” at Karaoke, travel agents never went away at all – except to travel the world of course which is what makes them the passionate travel experts they are.
Since the birth of online travel around 20 plus years ago, the age-old debate between the travel agent and online booking websites has and still rages on – so it’s always helpful to remember just how much value a travel agent can bring to your party.
Because right now, travel agents are more relevant than ever.
Don’t believe us? Here’s 7 common myths about travel agents debunked.
1. IT’S QUICKER/CHEAPER TO DO IT MYSELF!
But is it really?
If you enjoy going down a rabbit hole of websites for hours on end getting more and more confused as well as increasingly anxious about booking that ‘perfect hotel’, why that cheap flight just went up $50 when you hit refresh or how on earth you get a permit sorted for the Inca Trail then search away.
Sure, there’s certainly something empowering about DIY. That’s why we love Bunnings and shows like the Block, but we’ve all seen what happens when that goes wrong.
If the result of your hours of searching is saving a paltry $50 but risking your entire annual holiday, you might want to reconsider.
And by the way, agents do all their research online too so surely its considerably easier to let them hammer out the keyboard marathon?
2. Reviews tell me all I need to know
Of course, jump online first (because getting inspired about travel is always fun) and get some ideas together of where you’d like to go and what you’d like to do on your travels.
Got must do’s? Put them into your wishlist and then let a travel agent build your dream trip for you while you go shopping instead for what you’re going to wear on your hols. That’s a far better use of time right there.
Read online reviews but do take them with a pinch of salt.
‘Bob from Arkansaw’ probably hated the hotel in Mexico because he booked a place full of 24/7 partying hipsters and now his wife isn’t talking to him anymore.
Oh, dear Bob. Should have gone to ‘Travel Savers.’
Meanwhile, that glowing review from ‘Sheila79’ about that apartment you like the look of in Amsterdam? Could well have been written by ‘Shel’, the owner. It’s all about context which is hard to find amongst the billions of reviews out there.
Much better to speak to someone (hello friendly travel agents) who have likely been where you want to go or have an industry peer who went recently.
Because is it worth the risk?
3. YOU HAVE TO BOOK AND PAY IMMEDIATELY!
Unlike booking online, you can hold a reservation with your agent while you get your plans together – or manage to get that time off work.
Hey, why not quit your job altogether and travel the world for the rest of your life EAT, PRAY LOVE style?!
Online booking websites give you no such option, forcing you to commit and book then and there.
And then if you then want to change your plans or cancel altogether… Well, let’s not even go there.
Let a travel agent handle it all for you.
4. Travel Agents are way more expensive than online!
The internet is full of so-called ‘Cheap travel deals’ that promise exotic holidays and trips for next to nothing.
But you know the old saying – “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”
Travel agents have access to some pretty awesome and often exclusive industry rates and deals and are privy to a bunch of up to the minute airfares that aren’t available anywhere online.
Plus, if you’ve seen a deal somewhere, you fancy the look of, you can usually let an agent ‘deal test’ it for you.
They’ll deconstruct the deal and see if they can match or beat the price for you, as well as tell you if it’s shonky. It could end up being a blessing in disguise.
Once again, try getting that kind of service online.
5. All agents do is just book travel! What’s the point of using them at all?
Back to the DIY conversation again in #1. ^^
What happens when you end up stuck in a sticky situation on your holiday? Or you’ve been left stranded thanks to an adverse weather change, cancellations or some other situation out of your control?
If you’ve booked online, who are you going to call? Certainly not Ghostbusters, though you might as well because they’ve probably got more chance of helping you than many online travel businesses.
Travel agents are extremely well connected with airlines, wholesalers, hotels, tourism boards and some of the big wigs of the travel industry. They’ll likely be able to get your problems solved one way or another, period.
6. Travel agents hate customers who make changes!
Of course, customer changes mean more work and potentially increased costs such as the constant fluidity of travel pricing but ‘Hate’ is a strong word here.
The fact of the matter is travel is complex and confusing for EVERYONE with so much fine print it’s invisible to the untrained (or agent or legal) eye.
“How much does it cost to change my flight?” “Can I reroute?” “Can I cancel my ticket?” “Why did no-one tell me that flight goes via Lahore?” “And an 18-hour stop-over?” If you’re booking online, you’ll have to read all that complicated mumbo jumbo on your ticket and make sense of it all yourself… Good luck with that!
Travel agents are well versed in decoding all that fine-print down there and making it simple for you the customer to understand.
Ultimately, an agent exists to serve you as their client through expertise and superior customer service. If you’re not happy with the service your travel agent offers you, we suggest finding one that best fits your needs and style of travel.
7. Travel companies seem to go bust all the time – how will my money be protected?
Firstly, always make sure you book with an accredited Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) accredited agent.
This guarantees that your agent or the travel company you are booking through is vetted and licensed to sell travel in Australia.
In a changing world full of competition and disruption, sadly businesses of all types do go bust, and travel companies are no exception.
Thankfully, it is still rare for travel companies to go broke and travel agents of all people, usually, have an up to date handle on individual travel suppliers’ reputations.
It’s always worth paying for your travel with a credit card to ensure your travel is covered (though different cards have different rules here) as well as taking out travel insurance which is an absolute must.
An agent can help you with finding the right policy for you too and often for less than you’d pay elsewhere.
Many travel agents have varying levels of insolvency insurance too as part of their service to add extra financial guarantees in the rare case of a travel supplier going to the wall.
The best advice is to do your research first and find an agent that suits you best.
It often feels like a harsh statement, but the reality is: “without a travel agent, you can often be on your own.”
Happy, safe travels with confidence!
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