The travel industry has been struggling for quite some time. Between fuel surcharges, terrorism and general economic despair there hasn’t been much of a boom in the industry lately. Travel agents in particular have been striving to save the industry and along with it, their jobs. They have been trying to compete with internet pricing for years now. But as the public becomes more and more comfortable with the internet and computers, it is easier than ever to book your vacation online.
There are still many advantages to using travel agents and their services. A travel agent is there to do all the ‘legwork’ for his/her clients. This makes it easier for them to sit back, relax and enjoy their vacationing experience. The public doesn’t generally have the knowledge that an agent has about the destinations, restaurants, hotels and attractions. This is where a travel agent can help tremendously. It is the agents job to make all of this not only easier and faster for them, but more satisfying in general. As we are all fully aware, there are many websites now that are readily available to the public that allows them to book quickly, inexpensively and from the comfort of their own home.
Some of these included Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, Hotels.com and Expedia.com. These are just a few of the sites available, there are many more targeted to specific destinations or hotel chains. But these sites don’t always provide travelers with a definite answer to all their questions. There isn’t that piece of mind that you have someone to turn to with a question or problem. Yes, you can book your flight and hotel to Las Vegas on Expedia.com, but can they tell you what time the Cirque du Soleil show is going to be? And at what hotel? OK, so you found your all-inclusive vacation package on Orbitz.com for $30 cheaper than your local agency, but can Orbitz tell you what you have to wear to the Steakhouse restaurant on formal night? Sure, it’s faster to book your cruise on Travelocity.com, but are your transfers included to the pier? Are you SURE??
Many agencies have begun to implement specialty programs or classes designed for their agents to hone in their skills on one particular destination or product. This could consist of classes, familiarizations trips, sales quotas, reports or even tests . With this kind of knowledge, should a client come in looking for that particular destination or product, a specialist will be offered up to work with them. This can greatly increase their client base and some agencies even offer awards or special titles along with the completion of these programs. This helps the client to feel more confident in their decision making process. And hopefully, if the agent does their job correctly, this is all the work the client will have to do.
Travel agencies are now starting to focus their work toward more “service based” activities. Agents are becoming more and more service based. As opposed to just supplying the actual action, they supply information and service. They are making their sales focus more about complimentary “concierge services”, rather than just the actual booking process. This concept covers a broad range of topics. Some of them include:
* Dinner/Restaurant Reservations
* Show & Theater Tickets
* Golf Tee Times or Tennis Reservations
* Spa Appointments
* Excursions & Sightseeing Options
* Special Occasion Celebration (Birthday/Anniversary/Honeymoon)
* Limousine Reservations
* Wedding Arrangements
* Gifts (Flowers, Wine etc.)
* Handicap Accessible Arrangements
* Pre-Cruise Vacation Registration
* Destination Guides, Maps or Driving Directions
* Dietary Restrictions
* American Express Travelers Cheque Card, Foreign Currency & Travelers Cheques
* Passport/Visa Processing Assistance
* Frequent Flyer Program Sign-Up
Travel agencies have been fearing this situation for a long time. The agencies are losing money due to less bookings and therefore are getting commission cuts due to less bookings. Most people don’t realize that travel agencies can almost always match the prices that are found online. If they are not able to match it, they can compensate for something in the package, whether it be to throw in transfers or maybe a complimentary tour. There is usually some way to get you the same value.
Another option that travel agents are able to offer that may not be available on online booking engines is insurance. This piece of mind is very important to some travelers, especially those leaving children behind, with elderly parents or with pre-existing health conditions. This is not usually offered online, and if it is there is no way of having it fully explained to you as far as what is covered, what you will get back should you need to cancel or what the process is when you decide that you need to cancel your vacation.
There are many services that a travel agent can provide that are still very valuable to many of their customers. They will not be fading out too quickly. Some people still do not have access to the internet, are not savvy on the computer or just plain don’t have any idea where to start. Plus there will always be those people who walk in say…
“I wanna go somewhere warm. Any ideas?”