Although I have traveled extensively thoughout my life, I honestly didn't know a great deal about the travel industry itself until this past year. Beforehand, I scheduled all my trips on my own. Like most people, I booked my flights and hotel reservations online and that was the extent of my travel arrangements. However, I am now letting one of my good friends act as my official travel agent. Joseph McNamara is the CEO and President of 'Sky Cap Corporation', a up and coming travel agency based out of Lake Worth, FL. Sky Cap Corp. has been assisting CME as well as myself for over a year now. Before Mr. McNamara began making all my travel arrangements for me, I had never really considered using a travel agent. Now that I am more knowledgeable on the subject and I have seen firsthand what a travel agent can do, I can't tell you how much I regret not using one all along. When the opportunity to write a blog about the importance of using a travel agent presented itself, I couldn't think of anyone more qualified than Mr. McNamara to consult with on the subject. I sat down with Joseph over coffee and explained to him what I would like him to contribute to the blog. "I don't want anything fancy or complicated, I simply want you to approach me as if I am a random person who has no intentions whatsoever of ever using the assistance of a travel agent and give me 5 reasons that will make me change my mind." Despite already knowing the advantages of using a travel agent, I was still surprised by just how much a travel agent has to offer. Here is what Mr. McNamara had to say:
1. If you mention using a travel agent to the average person, they will probably say something along the lines of "I don't want to spend extra money on a travel agent's fee when I can do everything myself online." Their first thought is that the fee will be outrageous and that they will inevitably spend less money if they simply do all the work themselves, avoiding the additional cost. However most people will be surprised to know that the reason behind hiring a travel agent is not just convenience, it's actually to save the traveler money. As shocking as it may be, most travel agents charge their clients very little. In fact, most of the money a travel agent will make comes from the suppliers they work with, not their actual clients. Some travel agents charge their clients as little as $25-$75 for their services. While fees may add an additional cost to the traveler, the cost savings that an agent can save a traveler in other areas can greatly and typically does exceed the small fee. Travel agents have established strong relationships with suppliers including airlines, hotels, tours, cruises, travel insurance and car rentals. These suppliers provide discounted rates to the agent in exchange for selling their product. These rates are usually not available to the general public. For instance, if you wished to travel from Miami, FL to Frankfurt, Germany roundtrip in business class, the airline cost to the public is $8,961.60 today. As an agent, I can offer you a fare of $5063.60 for the same trip. Even with my agency fee, the cost savings are over $3,800.00. There may be instances in which an agency will have a fare similar to the ones you can find online, but an agency will never be more expensive.
2.The internet is one of the greatest resources available to consumers today. There is not much, if anything you won't find online. However, as the internet increases its number of resources, it requires more time and energy to research and review all of the available options. A trip to Paris may seem as simple as a flight, a hotel, and ground transportation once you arrive; but did you stop to think about how many flight options are available? Did you consider the time it was going to take to review the lengthy list of hotels to select from with different ratings, amenities, values, and room types? With traveling comes a lot of stress and anxiety, even for some of the most frequent travelers. A travel agent is someone who can relieve that stress. They are equipped with tools and resources that are not available to the public, enabling them to view all of the options and find the best one based on the traveler’s specific needs. Beyond planning a trip, a lot of stress comes when flights are cancelled, delayed, or connections are missed. If you do not have the aid of a travel agent in these common situations, you could very well find yourself standing in a long line only to find out by the time an airline representative is available to assist you; the next available flight is 3 days away. A travel agent can rebook you, hold your seat on the next flight, or even get a waiver from the airline to switch you to an alternative airline if necessary. A travel agent will literally do everything within their power to get you where you want to be, on time, and worry free. With a travel agent in your corner, even the most unfortunate of situations can be spent relaxing in the airline lounge while your travel agent takes care of the situation for you.
3. When it comes to traveling, a travel agent's knowledge cannot be matched. When planning a trip, it is not rare for a travel agent to make suggestions off the top of their head regarding hotels, restaurants, as well as places you might be interested in visiting once you reach your destination simply because they have already visited the destination themselves. If a travel agent hasn't visited the location, they have studied it extensively. Since the agent already knows the destination front to back, the trip will be custom made to fit the client's personality and interest. A travel agent will never suggest or schedule activities or places to visit that you will not enjoy. The expertise of a travel agent will ensure not only that everything runs smoothly during your trip, but that you have an enjoyable and unique experience.
4.Travel agents are experts when it comes to making travel arrangements including recommendations on cruises, airfare, hotel and destinations. Many agents go through rigorous training to become a Certified Travel Associate or Certified Travel Counselor which is offered by The Travel Institute, but their knowledge doesn’t just stop there. Agents receive daily updates regarding the travel industry, FAA regulations, and detailed information on travel destinations. Rules and regulations are constantly changing in regards to traveling, visas, baggage allowance, etc. All of the information is readily available at the agent's finger tips. If for some reason they are unsure of something, they have the strong support system of the ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) at their disposal that can provide the most up to date information regarding the travel industry. It would be devastating to find out that after you planned a weeklong vacation to Moscow in December for a little skiing, you will never get to touch a single slope in Moscow because you were unaware beforehand that you needed a visa to enter Russia. A travel agent knows these kinds of details and will provide you will everything you need prior to traveling. With a travel agent, there are no surprises.
5. When was the last time you received professional service that was both friendly and personalized? As companies are continuing to grow and technology is becoming more advanced, many jobs are being replaced by computers. When dealing with companies and providers today, in most cases you will probably spend more time listening to a computer talk than talking to an actual person. When using a travel agent, you have the luxury of knowing that you will always be interacting with a friendly person who genuinely cares about your needs and wants to make you happy. In most agencies, you will always work with the same travel agent because travel agents build an individualized relationship with the people they work with and consider you a friend, not just a client. A travel agent will advocate on your behalf in each situation to ensure you are being provided with only the best quality of service. Don't be surprised if your travel agent contacts you after you return from your trip simply to make sure you made it home safely and to confirm that you had a great time.
After Mr. McNamara finished listing his 5 reasons, he went on to add; "As with any industry, you will encounter professionals who are anything but professional and fail to deliver the quality of service they should. The travel industry is no exception. Some travel agents are better than others and when you are considering a travel agent, you should definitely do your homework. There will always be people who have a negative experience regarding a travel agent or agency, but I cannot stress enough that this is a result of that particular agent or agency, not the profession itself. If your agent has done their job correctly and to the best of his or her abilities, they should leave you with nothing but great things to say and wonderful memories. If this is not the case, you are using the wrong travel agent."