While watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding for the millionth time, as Toula, her mother and aunt plan her escape from her miserable job waiting at her father’s Greek Diner to the (comparative) glamor of her Aunt’s Travel Agency, I couldn’t help but wonder, What ever happened to Travel Agents?” Has the Internet done to them what it did to CDs, movie rental stores and my free time? Force them to the verge of extinction?
Apparently not. The American Society of Travel Agents posts some pretty impressive statistics in it’s Press Kit stating that 50% of all airline tickets and 70% of all tours and packages are sold by an agent. Even the internet savvy Gen X and Y (18-34) use travel agents to book 33% of its travel.
Why should I use a Travel Agent when it’s never been easier to book trips online?
If your planning a simple trip to visit the folks for the holidays, or a business trip there is no reason to use a travel agent. But when planning more complicated trips, it’s easy to get sucked into the time-suck of comparing flights, hotel and packages to inflict yourself with analysis paralysis and unneeded stress. It’s time to ask yourself “Why DIY when I can leave it to a professional?”. Save yourself the time and hassle.
Use an agent when you have a large group, an ‘event trip’ like New Orleans Jazz Fest, or interested in destination packages, like that family trip to Disney World. They don’t just do flights and international travel either. An agents can help you plan a RV Road trip. In fact most cruises are still done through agents, 85% of them according to the ASTA.
Agents can often match the prices you can find online. They have access to unpublicized deals, discounts and prices that you’ll never find yourself.
How to use a Travel Agent?
Be flexible. If your agent can save you $20 a night by staying in a hotel one block away and with just as many stars as the one you wanted, or could save you 15% by booking your flight a few days later why not go for it?
Be specific – about any activities, events or packages you want. Want to eat your way across Italy, learn Tango in Buenos Aires, take a train tour of Africa? Let your agent know, they have the know-how to make you most obscure whims a reality.
Most agents will charge a fee,which is $35 on average. A pittance for the time and stress you can save. Agents make commissions from hotels, activity, and car rental companies and sometimes the airlines, though most large major airlines have stopped due to the advent of the internet and low competition. They will also be on-call when you are traveling to make sure that everything is going smoothly, and in the event that you encounter a problem they are there to help.