By Britney Hope, Canadian Traveller magazine, April 2017
Travel is a lot more complicated than it used to be.
Sure, the Internet makes it easy to book a flight to the Caribbean and reserve a room at your favourite beach resort, but what if you’re planning your first trip somewhere slightly more complex? To a place where you don’t speak the language, which requires multiple layovers or has so much to see and do that you don’t even know where to start?
While sinking hard-earned cash into your dream trip is never a bad idea, more and more travellers are finding value in consulting with a travel advisor over booking online when seeking a more customized travel experience, and it’s not difficult to see why:
Agents offer all the validation you crave
The Internet is useful when researching a trip, but relying on it as your main tool when hobbling together a dynamic, memorable, personalized vacation comes with a lot of variables – and for first-timers, potential for misstep.
Consulting with a travel agent means you can collaborate and share your ideas with an expert who has likely been there themselves, and is able to make helpful suggestions for travelling logistics and unique experiences you may not have even thought about.
What’s more, travel experts not only make it their business to know a wide variety of trip styles, destinations and travel companies, they’re also often trained to match the right vacation for every traveller’s style, preference and personality.
They know something you don’t know
Take booking an experience with Silversea, for example. One could simply book the cruise online but when working with a travel agent who knows the Silversea experience, they will help you get the most out of your time and financial investment, guiding you in booking pre- or post-cruise extensions and which cities make for the best options to do so, or which itinerary best fits your travel agenda.
As professionals, these experts are constantly attending events, trade shows and travelling to acquaint themselves with unique and special experiences so that when you walk through their door, they’ll have more for you to consider than just garden-variety travel brands.
Further to that, these nifty travel advisors also have professional connections with the brands they know, giving them access to perks, discounts and useful insider-info (like which room has the best view).
Their success is based on your happiness
For many travel agents, repeat clients and references makes-up the bulk of their business, so they have significant incentive to work hard and make sure your trip is a success (unlike many travel sites, which function on booking numbers, and not necessarily customer satisfaction).
By going above and beyond to deliver on and exceed your expectations, the best travel agents are driven to provide you with the kind of experiences that will make you want to return for your next vacation – and tell all your friends.
They’ve got your back
Travel, like many amazing things in this world, is not cheap. And while going on your dream trip is exciting and rewarding in all the right ways, there are also a lot of things that could go wrong, which are not always within your control.
If you book with a travel agent, they do most of the worrying for you – and many will make themselves available throughout your trip in the event of any unforeseen hiccups.
Unlike booking online, which often comes with social media-based customer service and purchasable travel insurance with all kinds of rules and regulations, the kind of assistance offered by an agent goes way beyond a 1-800 number; it’s about having someone to call when your shuttle doesn’t pick you up at the airport, or when a storm is threatening to put a damper on your trip, who will make it all better.
The Internet can’t hug you good-bye (yet)
One of the best things travel experts have to offer is their ability to tailor your trip specifically to your personality. Because they’re invested in your happiness, great agents work to build a relationship with their clients based on trust and understanding, as opposed to automatically delivering whatever you ask for.
This means your agent will advise you against things they think you may not like, and use their relationships with top hotels and tour guides to arrange incredible experiences on your behalf. Some even go above and beyond to provide personalized services, such as care packages or airport send-offs.
True, the Internet is a wealth of knowledge, and you can even use it to consult with local experts and experienced travellers. But everyone’s trip is different, and while there is no shortage of personal opinions available online, your advisor will take the time to talk about your plans one-on-one, weigh-in as an expert to ensure your trip is the right fit, and always ask how it went when you’ve come back home.
Can you say that about your browser history?