The invincible travel agents

While it was widely predicted that the internet was going to kill off travel agents when digital tools were placed at every traveller’s disposal, that event hasn’t occurred due to several reasons. Now more than ever, travellers need agents to not just secure bookings but also help them in times of emergencies.

Hazel Jain

Agent expertise

No one knows everything about travel, no matter how deeply they are involved in the industry. Some travellers cheat their way around by sticking to brands wherever they go. But in many tourist hotbeds, all the best hotels are the ones you have likely never heard of. This is where a travel agents’ knowledge comes handy. And while even the best travel agent can’t know everything either, the good agencies have experts and they all work together.

The best fit

The major search sites routinely leave out flights and even entire airlines in their results. A lot of the flights they do show are the ones travellers don’t want, starting with ‘basic economy’ fares that come with tons of restrictions and fees, so the price you see isn’t the one you end up paying, along with connections way too short or way too long – ones that no responsible travel agent would let their clients book. Good travel agents do not just know what the best hotel is, they know what the best hotel is for you and your budget and can help you find the right fit.

During emergencies

Stuff happens and big weather events have become more widespread, and sooner or later Mother Nature is going to strike us when flying. But there are plenty of non-weather events disrupting flights, cruises, trains and destinations, from civil unrest to volcanic eruptions to disease outbreaks to massive wildfires, and even airlines that went bust and shut down suddenly.
Anything that causes cancelations means hassles, but the people who get through this process the most smoothly and the ones who get rebooked first are usually the ones who used a travel agent.

Cutting through clutter

There is an information overload right now with thousands of new hotels on the scene, all sorts of new cruise ships, passport and visa issues, weather, transit strikes, political unrest, natural disasters, travel insurance, travel providers going out of business, etc. In such a situation, it’s the travel agent who can help travellers navigate all of this and avoid the travel landmines that lay in front of them.

Safety net

Even the best advisors probably can’t get it for less than you can buy it online, though you still have to deal with all the pitfalls of the online travel sites and you will lose the safety net advisors provide when things go wrong. But in a couple of other cases, buying your air through an agent can actually save you money, or miles, or both. What agents can do is unparalleled to anything travellers will find elsewhere in terms of value. Their negotiated air contracts, along with their in-depth knowledge of the carriers and actual aircraft, means they can advise on how to reach the destination at the best possible price and in the most comfortable configuration.

Special deals

Whether you are trying to book space at a coveted 8-villa safari lodge in Africa or get a room in a top Paris hotel during Fashion Week, most hoteliers keep emergency inventory and guess who gets it? Their preferred travel partners they have known for years who give them a lot of business! Anytime there is scarcity, there is no substitute for personal connections, and the best agents have built these over years or decades. Plus we are living in the age of ‘experiential travel’ and good advisors create one of kind experiences most people would never have imagined in the first place.

 

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