Guest post by Eileen Herncane (Editor at Large, Apple Vacations)
A recent article came out. “9 things Travel Agents won’t tell you”. It was not a supportive article for the Travel Agent community and suggests “buyer beware”. I am here to say to the writer, Anne Roderique-Jones, you got it wrong!!! I’ll address your 9 points.
#1 – They’re making commission. Well, yes this is true. That is how they are compensated for their expertise. Do you expect them to book your trip, provide first-hand experience, check flights, research, put you in the right resort for your wishes, work with your budget, walk you through the details, procure your tickets, and make dining recommendations and reservations for free? A Travel Agency is a business and they do get compensated for their services. I think that is a “no brainer”. Any reputable agency will NOT sell you a vacation they do not truly think you will enjoy – no matter what the incentive is out there for them. They want you to be happy, so that you and your friends and family use them again and again. They make a living on repeat business. I challenge you to take the commission an agent makes, and divide it by the time they put into planning your vacation. Would you work for that hourly rate?
#2 – They can’t book all Airlines. WRONG. An agent can book anything. They do not get commission on most airlines, but most agents either book that part as a courtesy since you are booking the rest of the trip with them, or charge an up-front service fee to get you the airline you want.
#3 – They lie about their experience? Most agents I know love to travel. That is why they are in fact an agent. FAM trips are an essential part of the business. Agents jump at the chance to go. Apple Vacations runs them all the time, and they always fill up quickly. Good agents have been to the destinations they sell, multiple times. Agents are also a close community, and if one agent in an office has not been to a location or resort, someone in the office or their network most likely has. They share information (good and bad), details, photos and tips. They also take webinars, go to tradeshows, attend seminars and trainings. To question the integrity of “ALL” Travel Agents is unfair when I continually see so many agents continually traveling and educating themselves mostly on their own dime and time.
#4 – I am not sure why you think agents are inflexible. Call an agency … standard protocol is … what can I help you with, location, dates and are you flexible? Yes, an agent may recommend different departures to save you money, or get you better flights. The bottom line is agents present options. If you are flexible, and the best rate is what you want, let them know. Again, they are a service industry and if they know a day later may give you a better flight time or price, then take advantage of that knowledge.
#5 – Insurance may not be necessary? I find this to be an irresponsible statement. Trip protection is ALWAYS recommended. We never get complaints from Travel Agents or vacationers that took trip protection and had to cancel for an emergency or unforeseen reason, and got their money back or were able to rebook at a later date. Really, we never received one. However, we have heard from vacationers when something unforeseen did occur and they could not travel. We never want to see anyone lose their hard earned money and we certainly don’t like when customers are unhappy when a trip cannot be changed. Therefore, we always recommend trip protection. Also, trip protection has numerous benefits in addition to cancellation. It covers you in resort, medical, baggage, trip interruption and unforeseen circumstances. The statement you made would better be phrased “What trip protection is right for this vacation?” as there are many plans available. Any good agent WILL and SHOULD recommend trip protection and will walk you through your options. A vacation is an investment, and like any investment it should be protected.
#6 – Only use an agent for a special occasion trip? Isn’t every vacation a special occasion? If you are spending your hard earned money and taking the time away from work or responsibilities, don’t you deserve the best your money can buy? Please, don’t lower expectations before you even book. A vacation is an event, an experience, and we hope to always not only meet but exceed all of your expectations on every vacation.
#7 – On – Line sites now offer refunds and cancellation policies. This is correct, new DOT rules that came out last year, allow all customers to cancel any flight booked within 24 hours of booking (if the flight was booked more than 7 days prior to departure date). This is a new industry standard no matter where – or how – you book. I also think this is one of the #1 reasons to USE a Travel Agent. They have relationships with airlines, resorts and wholesale companies such as Apple Vacations. Because of this, they understand the fare classes, room categories and terms & conditions when booking. They are EXPERTS. Lean on their expertise, don’t criticize it.
#8 – They won’t find the best price? Go ahead, challenge them! What do you have to lose?
#9 – Sign up and use a travel rewards club. It’s a good idea to use credit card points, Apple Vacations has a card. But one club or card most likely can’t take care of all your travel needs. I suggest you find a travel agent you like. Get to know them, and let them know you. They will learn your preferences and expectations. If an agent knows what you like, what you don’t, who you typically travel with, when you like to go and what is important to you; they will know what you are looking for in a vacation. When you are ready to travel, they will know what vacation is just right for you!
There are also so many key reasons you SHOULD book with an agency.
There are sometimes unforeseen circumstances that affect your trip. Let’s say you book your trip yourself. You are enjoying this amazing vacation, but in the days before you are about to come home, you find out your home airport is closed due to weather (snow, bad winds, tropical storms) and your flight is cancelled, do you want to enjoy your last days of vacation or do you want to be on hold with an airline for hours and negotiating a last minute rate with the hotel? Travel Agents don’t get a rain or snow day! They are working long into the night, placing calls, researching flights, waiting on hold to assist their clients and get their travel plans back on track.
Do you want to be the first to know about a sale or promo code? Many times Travel Agents get a “sneak peak” to these. Do you want inside tips and personal reviews? Do you want a professional looking out for you and taking care of you? Using their “pull” to get you free upgrades and perks. Making sure you don’t get bumped from a reservation due to a hotel or airline or car overbooking. Making sure you don’t book an impossible connection. Making sure you get proper compensation when vacations do not go as planned. I could go on and on. The bottom line is Anne; I think you placed an unfair stereotype on an industry that does not warrant it. I am sorry if you had a bad experience. I personally know many, many, many, many, many agents who are all hard working, ethical, knowledgeable and professional. They are a true resource when booking your vacation. I’d be happy to recommend one for your next vacation. I am proud to know them, be in the industry with them, and call many of them both colleagues and friends. Go ahead and Ask An Agent when booking your next trip. I know I will!