How come the job of travel agent still exists? That was the question that business news website Business Insider decided to investigate. The site set out to see just how useful travel agents are, by planning a hypothetical trip to Germany during Oktoberfest, with multiple stops in different cities.
The study appears to have been conducted in the US. Researchers contacted travel agents, got them to quote prices, then compared those prices to fares they found online themselves.
For agents, the tale has a silver lining. The study concluded that there was “one excellent reason why travel agents are still relevant – and just might be around for years to come”.
That reason was personal service and advice.
The travel agent who saved the reputation of agents globally was named as Andrea Holtman of Travel Leaders, a group which describes itself as “America’s Number 1 Travel Agent Network”.
Holtman, Business Insider reported, not only searched for the flights requested, she constructed an entire itinerary for the trip, complete with prices for recommended hotels in each city, as well as tours, museum tickets, private transfers to and from airports, potential rail passes, recommended cafés and restaurants.
Going that extra step is what impresses clients – a discovery that is hardly new, but worth repeating.
The study concluded that if consumers just want to book flights, they may as well do so online For more complex plans or multi-stop itineraries, however, agents are better.
Additionally, the report mentions a vital attribute: “If something goes wrong, there’s an emergency, or you need to cancel, travel agents are a safety net.” That’s an aspect that AFTA stresses as well.
A final point. The Business Insider investigation discovered that “most travel agents won’t charge you for their work” as they get paid by hotels, tours and wholesalers instead, “so it literally won’t cost you anything to give them a shot”.
Just fancy that!
Written by Peter Needham