Who says travel agents are obsolete?
The Web is filled with a plethora of booking engines that allow customers to plan their own travel and flights, so why use a travel agent for what you can do yourself?
Imagine this: you’re flying internationally, say, from Istanbul to the United States with a connection in Germany, and suddenly your connecting flight is canceled while your 30,000 feet over somewhere in Hungary.
A well-versed travel agent would have you re-booked with a new itinerary in your inbox before you even land.
Sans agent? You arrive in Germany jet-lagged, find out your connecting flight is no longer, and have to navigate the complicated system in a foreign country on your own. It’s a recipe for a meltdown.
Avid travelers, especially those traveling for business, don’t have the time or energy to spare if any such mishaps occur, and trust us: it happens often.
No matter how or technologically advanced the site or app is, there is no greater value than assistance from a live person during a time of need.
Even booking engines are now aware of the importance of human help. Cheapair.com now assigns each customer to an in-house travel adviser to assist with reservations, itinerary changes and travel mishaps. Customers are sent an email with their advisor’s name, email address and direct phone line.
“I give my home and cell numbers to my clients so they can reach me after-hours in case anything goes wrong,” says long-time CookTravel.net agent Dennis Cutwal. “You never know what can happen in the airline industry.”
Travelers are willing to turn to professionals when they’re dealing with unusual locations or high-end luxury and specialized travel. Senior travelers are also more likely to seek help, Vice Chairman of Deloitte’s U.S. Travel, Hospitality and Leisure practice Adam Weissenberg told USA Today. Certain segments of the travel industry will always show a demand for a personal level of service.
And although the number of travel total travel agents has dwindled (from 95,360 in 2002 to 64,680 in 2012), their overall revenue has gone up (from $9.4 billion of revenue in 2002 to $17.5 billion in 2011). The increase is due, in part, to higher pricing, but agents also attribute the increased productivity to technological advances, which makes it easier to book flights and other accommodations and to deal with unforeseen changes, allowing them more time to provide personable service to their clients.
What’s more is travel agents can help you save a considerable amount of money. They have relationships and contracts with airlines and cruise lines, and often what they can offer is much lower than what’s listed on the Internet. Keep in mind, though, that this only works on higher fares. An agent won’t be able to discount much off a domestic coach seat but can save you thousands on an international business class seats.
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