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Today’s trip-planning professionals are not your grandmother’s travel agent. As experts with a wealth of knowledge of the world at our doorstep, they do so much more than simply book plane tickets.
Yet, many people still don’t understand the real value of the modern travel expert or perhaps even question the motives of the profession. Here are some common misconceptions that need to be debunked:
"Nobody uses travel advisors these days"
It used to be that you needed a travel agent for everything from booking a flight to reserving a resort stay. But the Internet has made direct-booking for airlines, travel companies and their customers easier, and as a result, travel agents have evolved.
Rather than simply being order-takers, they’re now experts who use their unique knowledge to help travellers dream-up, piece together and enjoy a trip which suits them perfectly. And just as technology has changed the way people research, plan and share their travel experiences, it’s also influenced the way advisors do business.
Travel agency shops with plastic chairs, desktop computers and posters of Rome have become a less popular way to service clients than instant messaging, home visits and virtual reality tours – and Canadians are benefiting from the evolution.
"It’s cheaper to buy online"
Sure, the prices you see quoted may be cheaper online, but when it comes to getting from one part of the world to another, the phrase “you get what you pay for” has never been more true.
While it might be easy enough to find an incredible deal on a boutique hotel, a travel advisor’s relationship with the hotel’s sales manager might result in perks such as a room upgrade, free breakfast and a spa credit for you. Further to that, most travel deal websites charge the same booking fees as a travel advisor, but their business models are purely transactional – they don’t offer advice, and if anything goes wrong on your trip, you’re on your own. On the other hand, a travel agent’s fee includes their insider knowledge, and give you all the hand-holding you could possibly need.
"It’s easier to do it myself"
For those who are organized, planning a vacation can be a breeze – even enjoyable. But when a trip gets complicated, requiring multiple fight connections or an itinerary with different destinations, working with a professional who has not only been where you’re going, but also has a friendly relationship with the airlines, tourism boards and hotels can be invaluable. While securing your cruise cabin may be as easy as the click of a mouse, an advisor knows which cabins are closer to the noisy engines, which hotel rooms have the best view, and what time of year is best to visit – or avoid – a particular city. Why do they know? Because it’s their job to know.
"It’s faster to do it myself"
When you buy a new car, do you just roll into the showroom, pick the shiniest one and throw down your credit card? If you answered yes, then you likely have impulse problems, so maybe get some help for that. Cars are a big investment; they cost thousands of dollars and you rely on them for years.
Travel isn’t so different; that safari or Antarctic expedition you’ve been dreaming up for half your life is also a big investment, and for better or worse, the resulting memories will also last a long time.
Most advisors make it their business to test drive a cruise or coach tour before selling it, so they can provide a first-hand opinion on what you’re buying. Sure, you can book it yourself in an afternoon, but if you’re going to be spending thousands of dollars on a dream-come-true that you can’t even see beforehand, wouldn’t it make sense to touch base with someone who has been behind the wheel?
"They’re just in it for the travel perks"
It’s true that working in this business comes with a lot of amazing experiences, but saying advisors are only in it for the travel is like saying top chefs are in it for the free food or that lawyers are in it for all the juicy courtroom drama.
While all jobs have their perks, being an expert in your field takes a lot of hard work. Agents do travel often, usually to tour a new hotel or try out a new cruise ship in the name of product research, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an advisor who is only in it for the free trip. Advisors rely on the satisfaction – and repeat business – of their client for in order to succeed, so neglecting their responsibilities in favour of touring a hotel just doesn’t add up.
Frequent travel may be an agent’s privilege, but the act of sharing those experiences with clients is their passion – and livelihood.
Do you use a travel advisor?
Tell us about a time they saved the day.
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