By Martha Jacobs | 02-18-2020 | Travel
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Want to rent a villa in Tuscany and do it on your own? It’s simple. Just type “Villa Rentals Tuscany” into Google, then wade through the four and a half million responses - most of which look the same, whether they are good or bad, legit or bogus. Spend just 10 seconds at each vetting site, and you’ll be done in a year and a half - and still won’t have rented anything.
Travel advisors are even more important to luxury travelers, who ironically often think they know a lot about travel and rely on their own misguided sense of expertise. But while a good advisor is so vital that it is simply foolish to plan a high-end trip on your own without one, they can also help travelers of all budgets.
Here are the 5 reasons why you need a travel agent:
1 | Emergencies
This is the one most applicable to the average occasional travel. Stuff happens, and whether you believe in climate change or not (spoiler alert, it’s real), big weather events have become more commonplace, widespread, and unpredictable, and sooner or later Mother Nature is going to bite you when flying. But there are plenty of non-weather events disrupting flights, cruises, trains, and destinations, from civil unrest to volcanic eruptions to disease outbreaks to massive wildfires to labor strikes. And just about every year you read about an airline that went bust and shut down suddenly, stranding passengers. One phone call to your travel advisor makes all the difference in the world.
Anything that causes canceled flights (or cruises, etc.) means hassles, but the people who get through this process the most smoothly and the ones who get rebooked first and get the few available seats are usually the ones who used a travel agent. It’s that simple. First off, you actually have someone to call, versus long lines at banks or airport phones masquerading as “help desks.” But good agencies are constantly monitoring their clients’ flights and they usually know about your problem before you do - and often have a resolution before you even call them. They also have direct access to airline GDS (global distribution system) and don’t have to wait on long phone holds to get ticketing changes made. It’s worth noting that according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly two percent of all domestic flights were canceled in 2019, a significant increase from the previous year and the highest rate since 2014. Midway through the year, MSNBC reported that passengers were being bumped from flights - involuntarily - at a rate three times higher than a year earlier.
2 | Expertise
No one knows everything about travel, no matter how deeply they are involved in the industry. Some travelers cheat their way around this by sticking to brands like Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton wherever they go, but in many tourism hotbeds like Fez, Morocco, all the best hotels are ones you have likely never heard of. This is where a travel advisor’s knowledge cannot be beaten. And while even the best travel agent can’t know everything either, the good agencies parcel things up, so they have a safari expert, a cruise expert, a honeymoon expert, and so on, and they all work together.
It is important to remember that these advantages are not just for luxury travelers. Good travel advisors do not just know what the best hotel is, they know what the best hotel is for you and your budget and can help you find the right fit. As we will see shortly, they can also save you a lot of money, no matter what style you travel in.
3 | VIP Connections
Whether you are trying to book space at a coveted 8-villa safari lodge in Africa or get a room in a top Paris hotel during Fashion Week, most hoteliers keep emergency inventory, and guess who gets it? The travel advisors they have known for years book a lot of guests and send them a lot of business. It works this way with lots of things in the travel industry, from hard to get dinner reservations to the resort’s best ski instructor to a city’s top art expert as a private museum guide. Anytime there is scarcity, there is no substitute for personal connections, and the best agents have built these over years or decades. Plus we are living in the age of “experiential travel,” and good advisors create one-of-a-kind experiences most people would never have imagined in the first place.
Travel advisors provide clients with access: access to people, places, and experiences that could never be replicated, much less imagined. A great travel advisor has invested time and relationships in creating their ‘black book’ of contacts and relationships so that when their clients travel, they are treated as VIPs, not just a credit card number.” Everyone likes being treated like a VIP.
Seemingly simple things often annoy even the most seasoned travelers, but these irritants can be smoothed out by good advisors. One biggie is having your room ready to check in when arriving in Europe early in the morning after an exhausting overnight flight. I’ve seen lots of travelers, told to wait for hours until their room was ready. Do you think they tell that to a top agency who books them all the time???
4 | Extras
When you get more than you expected for the same price, that’s a great deal, and with travel advisors, this happens all the time. The cruise industry is a perfect example of very large inventories that fluctuate in supply and demand each week, with a large audience of repeat customers who cruise again and again for years. The cruise lines do not want to lose the loyalty of those customers - or the agents who steer hundreds of them each year to particular brands. Yet it basically costs the line no more to have you stay in a deluxe suite than a basic room if that suite is available, and with the size of today’s ships, it often is. But who gets these upgrades? Advisors. Professionals who specialize in cruises have enormous volume clout and are legendary for routinely getting clients one or two class stateroom upgrades, free shore excursions, onboard credits, and all sorts of things - for the same exact price you pay going direct.
In an age of automation, it may come as a surprise that many new clients skew on the more tech-savvy side, and come for the first time seeking guidance on their honeymoon, The millennial generation specifically may have seen their parents use a travel advisor, but don’t feel like they need one - until they are deep in the spiral of research. By shifting gears to planning with an expert, they feel liberated from the immense pressure of choosing the ‘best’ resort - because the travel advisors are cutting through the noise of all the conflicting opinions they’re seeing online. If you’re with a good agency, their team has actually been to the properties first-hand - not to mention has personal relationships with the General Managers. At the end of the day, it’s all about personal relationships translating into exceptional experiences for our clients
5 | Better Trips
At the end of the day, this is the bottom line, the big win you get with a good travel advisor. They know more than you do, they are better connected, they have access to benefits you can’t get yourself, and they can match and often beat any prices you find. They plan a better trip and then provide a safety net. Having a top travel designer can make you an instant VIP, and certainly will save you time and hassle, and quite possibly money.