What you wish they knew
Travel agents get a lot of funny responses when people find out what they do. The extremes range from those who think your job is completely obsolete to that one family member who keeps asking you to hook them up with a free cruise. Contrary to what your friends think, you’re not necessarily fielding calls from a tiki hut in Bora Bora (ok, you might be!) You’ve put in your time and sweat, earning your place in a challenging industry.
Next time you’re asked about your job, you can pass along this list of 7 things people should know.
1. Travel agents are not extinct.
Many people are surprised to know that travel agents still exist and are, in fact, growing in demand. Approximately one-third of travel from the United States is booked through a travel agent and, according to ASTA, this route is considerably more popular among younger travelers. As the travel industry grows in complexity and diversity, travelers are recognizing the need for knowledgeable, up-to-date professionals to guide them through the planning process.
2. “Booking it yourself” is not as easy as it sounds.
Booking a vacation online sounds easy, but ultimately ends up costing travelers time and money they don’t anticipate. Many online booking sites are not upfront about hidden fees and regulations. Sorting out a change or booking mistake will often require travelers to spend hours on hold with a call center, finally reaching someone who really doesn’t care how their experience turns out. Travel agents are personally invested in making sure your trip goes smoothly. You are there to assist and advocate for your clients before, during, and after their trip.
3. You have access to deals and info that your clients don’t.
You work hard to establish relationships with your vendors so your clients can enjoy the benefits. The access you have to hotels and other travel suppliers is not something that can be bought; it develops through relationships, time, and experience. Suppliers are much more likely to cater to the needs (and maybe toss in some fun extras) of travelers booking through agents who have long-standing relationships with their brand.
4. Flexibility can help save.
Your clients often come to you with some very specific parameters about their itinerary — dates, times, airlines, and airports. You know that departing one day earlier or later can make a difference of hundreds of dollars. Or that choosing an alternative airport can result in savings that surpass the cab fare to drive a little further. You work your best travel agent magic when your clients can clearly express their travel goals, but value your judgment on the specifics on how to reach them.
5. You’re working even when you’re on vacation.
Every time you travel you’re scoping out hotels, restaurants, and local attractions. You ask questions, attend trade shows, and try every new experience available to make sure you can offer your best recommendations.
6. You have your clients’ best interests in mind.
Many travelers mistakenly believe that travel agents will try to steer them towards packages and vendors that will give them the largest commission. Great travel agents want to develop long-term working relationships with their clients, designing vacations and travel experiences that always exceed expectations. If a travel agent is advising against a “cheap” option, it’s because they believe the discount is not worth the drop in quality or may cost you more in the long-run.
7. You love what you do, really.
Travel agents don’t have some kind of secret “get rich quick scheme.” You work hard and love it! If you’re in this industry, you’re in it because you love travel and everything related. You’re passionate about sharing your skills and knowledge and making your clients’ travel dreams come true!