With the internet at our fingertips and a huge array of hotels, airlines and tour companies encouraging you to click the button to book, is there still a need for a travel agent or is it better to make all your arrangements yourself? Let’s take a look at why we say travel agents are more important now than ever.
- When things go wrong
Pandemics happen, volcanic eruptions happen, flights get cancelled. If the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that things don’t always go according to plan. Even the best laid plans can fall into disarray due to factors beyond your control. If you haven’t booked through a travel agent, when something like this happens, you’re on your own. It’s up to you to make alternative arrangements – to book another flight to hopefully get you to the port in time to board your cruise, or find a way to get home when there’s chaos ensuing and no flights to be had. On the other hand, if you’ve booked through a travel agent, they’ll sort this out for you. They’ll rebook your flights, arrange accommodation if necessary and make sure the disruption to your plans is minimal. And don’t let’s get started on arranging refunds, insurance claims and flight credits! That’s a headache no one wants! A travel agent is worth their weight in gold then.
Travel agents are always upskilling, attending product updates, meeting with cruise/accommodation representatives. They receive weekly publications with the latest news of what’s on offer, the deals that have come out, changes to cruises etc. They’ve got their finger on the pulse. After all, they do this for a living. While you’re at your own job or doing your own thing during the week, your travel agent is thinking about travel and keeping up to speed with which places are reputable, and which are not.
- First-hand knowledge
Travel agents are very well travelled. They’ve often cruised on the ship you’re looking at or visited the destination you’re going to. If they haven’t, they may have done a ship inspection while it was in port locally or their colleague may have just come back from a famil trip. Being able to speak with someone who has just cruised on the Aranui 5, for example, and can tell you how the tenders work, or what kind of transport is used for excursions is invaluable.
- Ease of booking
While it’s fun to jump online and have a look at what’s on offer in each destination and see which hotel has what facilities, it can definitely get overwhelming! It’s also hard to know which hotels are genuinely good and which hotels have posted a photoshopped picture of their very best room, or used a special lens to make a tiny pool look like it is full sized. Travel agents use reputable hotels, in good locations, and which they know are clean and comfortable. You can sit on the internet for hours scrolling through the various hotels or cruises, whereas a visit or phone call to a travel agent can have it sorted within minutes. They’ll also then make the bookings, check the confirmations are correct, arrange payment etc, while you just go about your day and think about other things like what you’re going to pack and who is going to look after the cat.
- Cost saving
There’s a common misconception that it costs more to book through a travel agent. In most cases this is incorrect. You may be able to book a cheap hotel that the travel agent won’t use – but there’s usually a reason for that! The hotels/cruise lines/tour operators pay a commission to the travel agent rather than you paying any more for their service. In fact, it will likely save you money as your travel agent will have special hotel rates available through their wholesaler, special airfares that the public can’t access and often their own offers as well. They can also give suggestions that may yield additional savings – for example, if you depart a week later, the fare drops by $500 or this cruise line is currently offering on board credits and a beverage package.
The question of whether you should book with a travel agent is actually more of a question of why would you not?