Shirley Joyner, a credentialed travel agent at MTS Travel in Colorado Springs, has seen a lot of changes during her 30-plus years of experience. "People used to come to me and say, 'I want to go somewhere warm," and I would suggest destinations," she says. "Now they research online and come in knowing where they want to go and what they want to do."
When asked what the public might not understand about using a travel agent, Joyner replies, "For one thing, we don't charge the client to book tours and cruises." Also, special software allows the agent to compare airlines, times and fares on one computer screen, and to be aware of delays and cancellations. An individual booking online cannot access this information.
"For example," Joyner states, "A client booking a cruise couldn't get a specific date and a special request of a room with a balcony. I was able to do it for them."
Heightened security has complicated foreign travel; what you don't know could hurt you. A professional knows about travel concerns to certain parts of the world and can help acquire critically important visas, shots and passports. Travelers who book on their own without knowing the ins and outs can be left at the gate with nowhere to turn.
The latest travel trend is booking groups. "A lot of families combine travel and getting together, often with a cruise as part of it," Joyner states. "Groups can be difficult to book online, and a travel agent can save you time and money."
Charlie Brown of Charlie Brown's Goodtime Travel, is another Colorado Springs based travel expert whose 20-plus years in the business means that he has seen the changes that electronic options have wrought. "Travel agents should focus on what sets them apart, what professionals offer versus what the would-be traveler finds online," he says. In Brown's opinion, "do it yourself" travel planning can be time consuming and something could go wrong. He cites a couple of examples.
"A client booked a vacation," he says. "They checked out Barbados hotels online and chose one based on photos that implied the property was on the beach." It turned out the hotel was two blocks from the beach in an area devoid of amenities, such as shops and restaurants.
Another client booked an overseas trip themselves and couldn't wait to tell him what great deals they had gotten. "As they rattled off the cost of airfare, hotels, tours, etc., I added it up in my head. They paid about $3,000 more than it would have cost to go through a travel agent," he states.
Both agents have traveled extensively. "I take trips and don't tell the cruise people or the destination I am a travel agent so I can see it through my client's eyes," says Charlie Brown.
Travel agents are trained to ask the right questions to find out what the client is looking for. It's also important to match the age and lifestyle of the client to the destination and amenities. "I know of a couple who booked their honeymoon cruise only to discover that the majority of the passengers were much older. There wasn't much to do at night - the decks rolled up at 9," Brown comments.
Both travel agents take seriously the fact that you are coming to them with your hard earned dollars. They both strive to give the client a satisfying travel experience, since so much of their business is repeat business or comes by word of mouth.
How to find a travel agent
Ask a friend, do a web search or check for professional affiliations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).
ASTA's site (asta.org) has helpful information, including why to choose a travel professional over DIY arrangements. According to ASTA, a travel agent:
- Investigates and supplies competitive information
- Stays abreast of timely promotions
- Clarifies fine print, such as cancellation penalties and restrictions
- Recommends travel-related options
- Enhances the trip with value-added benefits and amenities
- Uses clout to obtain the best possible arrangements
- Gets problems resolved
Now that you're armed with information and some timely tips about travel and how a good travel agent could save you time and money, start planning for that great getaway you been dreaming about. Bon voyage!
Rosanne Gain http://www.linkedin.com/in/rosannegain is a PR professional, writer and editor who resides in Colorado Springs, CO. She has a strong background in tourism promotion and loves to travel. She and Bob Stovall own Gain-Stovall, Inc., a PR and Government Relations firm.
Arthur Williams, " Start Your Own Online Travel Business And Work From Home. "