“It’s that time of year again! We are looking at getting some more of your advice so we can plan our next vacation…”
“Can I ask you why you needed to ask a Travel agent your question?”
“Because it’s your job, so you should have experience with this kind of thing.” “You’re right, it IS my job and I love doing it. I’m always willing to share the benefits of my experience with my clients. Are you willing to book your trip this time using my Professional Travel Services as I noticed when I helped you last year, you ended up booking the trip online, yourself?”
“Well, no, I wanted to do it myself again to save money.”
“I understand. Many people have a widely held misconception that booking it online is less expensive than booking through a Professional Agent, when in fact the pricing is the same, yet you get far more value. Let me know if you ever DO want my assistance.”
“Well, I just DID ask for assistance. I asked you to help me plan this year’s vacation.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I may have misunderstood. I thought you asked for my professional services for free, as you wanted to book it yourself online. I’m glad you’ve decided to work with me and become a client. Did you want to put your transferable research fee onto a Mastercard or Visa?”
“I don’t want to pay a research fee. I just wanted you to give me some basic information, so I can do it myself.”
“I see. Unfortunately, giving away my experience and services is not something I am comfortable with doing, though you did benefit from that last year. I am SURE you understand that working for free takes time away from clients who DO want to work with me and have me available to answer their questions.”
“So you can’t tell me if this is a good deal?”
“I book thousands of vacations annually for clients, so I certainly have the experience to know if something is a good deal or not, it’s one of the many things I am educated on. Do you want to work with me? I’d be happy to answer your questions at that point.”
“Well, if you didn’t want to help me, you could have just said so and not wasted my time.”
“I would love to help you. But why do you feel you can have both my time and experience and not compensate me for it?”
“I didn’t think it was that big a deal. It was a simple question.”
“Then let me give you a simple answer. I work solely on commission and get paid for research I do for clients by the companies the clients decide to use for their travel plans; it costs the client nothing, other than a commitment to book their trip through my company, once I give them my research time and answer their questions. I have access to anything any client can find for themselves, online and can usually find it faster; I can normally provide added perks and value for them, both in transit and in destination. The value of getting personalized service and access to an experienced Travel Agent to provide them with the type of information you are looking for, most of my clients find invaluable, which is why most of my business is generated through client referrals. I LOVE what I do. I just can’t afford to do it for free.”
Asking for professional services you have no intention of paying for, is a social mistake that some people inadvertently make and occurs all to frequently to professionals who are part of the service industry. People make assumptions about asking for advice, while in a social situation, which can become awkward as the professional tries to balance educating the person asking the question, against alienating them for not providing answers to their questions.
Many professionals move into being a Travel Agent as a second career. For some, after years of being tied down to a 9-5 job, the freedom of working when you want and where you want is a joyous change that brings about the advantage of choosing how you want to conduct your own business. People who end up migrating into the Travel Industry as second careers have done so, primarily as they love travelling. It’s not unusual for them to have spent years helping others plan vacations while involved in other careers, simply for the joy of helping others.
Experience about travel related issues, years of resolving multiple problems, knowledge about pricing, value and services all accumulate so that the combination of our education and experience provides an invaluable resource to our clients. When it comes to travel related questions, people truly do not know what they don’t know and Travel agents have the opportunity to educate you on properties and locations, so your vacation experience is exactly what you envisioned.
In all service industries, there is the expectation of a reciprocal exchange between the professional and the client. In the Travel Industry, Agents are not paid by a client. They are paid by the company the client chooses to book their travel through. This is a commissioned based exchange which enables suppliers of travel to only pay Agents once their products and services are sold to a client. The supplier of the Travel product conveniently directs them back to the Travel Agent if issues arise, which allows the Supplier to keep a lower overhead by not keeping full time travel agents on staff that they have to pay a salary and benefits to.
The benefits for a client to use a Travel Agent are numerous. First, it costs them nothing more than booking a trip directly themselves, yet they get personalized services from someone they can reach almost immediately for questions, as opposed to going through a call center and reaching whomever answers during regular business hours. Secondly, by using a Travel Agent a client is supporting a small family based business where your satisfaction is extremely important to them. Travel agents often monitor their clients vacation, check weather, check flight times, they worry if they are having a good time or if you are getting new beach towels delivered daily. It feels like they have family traveling and that is not something you get when you are an anonymous booking number on a multi national call center data base.
Online booking engines care about the bottom line and protect their financial interest, especially when it comes to being responsible for any issues that arise during travel. As a client of a Travel Agent, your interest comes before that of the supplier to us. We care about your experience and we advocate on your behalf because we want you to be happy with our services, so that you trust us and recommend us to your friends and family. Your referrals are not just a matter of business, but one of deep pride and heartfelt gratitude; which is why we work so hard to make sure the faith you place in us, remains.
As much as we love what we do, we still have to earn a living. If you’ve ever been around and listened to a group of Travel agents chatting, you will hear them talking constantly about properties, destinations, issues they’ve resolved, asking for peer advice on how to handle difficult situations with various components of a clients travel plans. We love educating people on how to Travel smartly, which ensures that you get the most value from your vacation dollar. It can be difficult for the Travel Agent at times, in balancing this love of educating people and earning a living, especially when people want to take advantage of that passion we have, for their own personal gain.
When people want your professional advice, when people ask for your time, experience and education and have no intention of using your services, they are in effect asking you to give them charity or to make an exception for them, in regards to expecting payment. If you make a choice to book online yourself, after asking for and receiving the professional counselling of a Travel Agent, which will result in the agent not getting paid, it creates tension in the social relationship between you as acquaintances, as well as ensuring that the Travel Agent no longer assists you or anyone with similar requests, in the future.
People make assumptions about asking ‘simple questions’ because they do not understand the implications of the answer being given. Often times, there is no such thing as a simple question; not when it comes to complex travel itineraries or even basic All Inclusive vacations. Taking advantage of a friendship or expecting a family to support you by giving free professional services, when you have not supported their business, is hypocritical.
Once people make the statement that they can book online themselves, or they can find pricing cheaper by booking direct, then it opens up a discussion about understanding pricing versus value. If your existing career allows for the hours of research required determining if a specific property or cruise, will match with the needs and expectations of the style of trip you are seeking, then you do not need confirmation or validation from a Travel Agent.
If you are comparing your one or two annual consumer experiences with a Travel Professionals experience in booking thousands of trips yearly, it is not an accurate measurement of comparable ability or skill level. Can you book it yourself? Of course you can. Should you? It depends. Oftentimes, you simply do not have the experience required to understand or know the difference, as it’s not your field of expertise. A professional Travel agent who you have developed a relationship with, is happy to assist you in understanding the difference and when it is advantageous for you book directly.
If you are seeking out information about your travel plans because you can not come to the conclusions yourself, then asking for assistance without expecting to pay for it, is not just unreasonable, it’s disrespectful; the only thing worse than this, is going to a Travel Agent to resolve your Travel problems, after you have booked online yourself. The reality of your situation is that if you book online, then you need to contact the online company you booked with for assistance.
Any Travel Agent you ask to help you resolve your problems simply can not help as they have no access to your information or booking details and they are not insured against errors and omissions coverage in the event of a mistake, in the case they give you information that is not applicable to your situation. Our inability to assist you is not in retaliation for not booking through us, it’s a lack of access to relevant information and legalities about distributing professional advice on a topic we have no direct information on. If you book your trip yourself, then you are responsible for fixing any issues which arise from it.
Being a Travel Agent is a vocation for most of the people involved in the industry. Quite often it is a second career for people who have the financial stability to move into an industry they love, over being in one that pays the bills. If a Travel Agent is not employed in a call center or in a retail brick and mortar location, with scheduled hours, then we are on call virtually 24 hours a day, especially when we have clients in transit or in destination. We are available ‘in case’ an issue arises, so we can fix it as quickly as possible.
An online booking engine can not compare with that amount of availability. Travel Agents work during Holidays as they have clients travelling. They answer emails, texts and Facebook chats at 11:30 PM or during a child’s hockey game, even if it’s just to say they will research what you are asking about and reply when they have the information. This level of service is impossible to achieve with any online booking engine.
Travel Agents love sharing their knowledge and often provide detailed advice to clients, even if they occasionally book elsewhere. They want you to get the most value from your money and they do not mind sharing with you when it would be more cost effective to book something directly as opposed to using their services, like in redeeming Air Miles or as part of a Group Travel for Wedding attendance. Once you become a client, a Professional Agent is invested in your Travel plans and want to make your trip as perfect as it can be considering all of the moving parts, and potential for errors, a vacation plan may entail.
Your happy posts about your trip and destination on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, give us validation that all our behind the scene planning, the hours we spent researching and in educating ourselves on the product various companies provide for guests, was all worth the time we invested because it helped us to impact a couple or a family in a positive way, where they created happy memories which they’ll have over a lifetime.
A Travel Agent is someone who travels with you on your trip, who looks out for your best interest, who resolves potential problems before they become an issue, who fights on your behalf, who acts as an intermediary to make sure that you can focus on the experience of the trip, as opposed to the details. We are your personal concierge who need and expect more than a simple monetary transaction with you. We are your protection detail making sure things like flights are rescheduled and hotel rooms are booked, while you are still on a flight in transit and are unaware of the storm delays at your connecting airport.
Reserving your vacation is in fact, just the beginning of your interaction with us. The majority of Travel Agents want a lasting relationship to develop and lifelong friendships to be created. We rely heavily on referral business and we value your trusting our expert advice. Most Travel Agents do not want you to be a customer; we want you to be a valued client we work with and for. We are team players with high attention to detail. We are on your side, always.
You don’t get that kind of personal investment from ‘1-800-cheap deals’ or ‘give us your money.com’ sites. In a world full of choices, deciding to work with someone to help plan your vacation, will let you enjoy the experience instead of worrying about what you may have forgotten or finding out that you overlooked a critical piece of information simply because you had never been educated about it. Travel agents are not perfect. But we try as hard as possible to make sure your travel details, are.