Why You Need A Travel Agent Now More Than Ever

Why You Need A Travel Agent Now More Than Ever

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My nephew was getting married this summer and told me that he didn't have much lead time and wanted to spend two weeks on his honeymoon split between Venice and Greece. It's a good trip - these aren't the worlds right now. are also Europe's two hottest summer destinations and have been nearly sold out for months.


I often provide detailed local travel tips and advice to family and friends, and this time the advice was concise and to the point. “You need to use a travel agency.” I introduced him to one of my favorite him (Anne Scully from Embark Beyond, a top tier industry legend at her agency). , is the best way to find the right travel agency for you - some are in particularly high demand and are not accepting new clients).


FYI, good travel agents are now called advisors, not agents. The role is similar to consultants in other fields. But the public is still very familiar with 'travel agency', so I use the term interchangeably, but I definitely need someone who travels through trip advisor (this is my second tip).


Ten years ago I wrote a big two-part feature here on Forbes. There are all reasons why you should use a travel agency to plan your trip, whether it's for work, pleasure, 'regular' travel, luxury travel or ultra-luxury travel. It resonated with my readers, and I still occasionally receive words of gratitude from consumers who have accepted my advice.


Why You Need A Travel Agent Now More Than Ever

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However, the topic has recently resurfaced in a big way thanks to the convergence of two factors. The massive increase in travel and ambitious travel on the bucket list following the pent-up demand due to COVID lockdowns, and the travel industry today. This is especially true for airlines, airports and car rentals, but nearly all hotels, restaurants and service providers are understaffed.


“Now the stakes are even higher!” said Beth Washington, adviser and founder of Getaway Guild, a top Washington DC agency affiliated with Virtuoso (more on that below). ). "If you arrived in Paris pre-pandemic with just a hotel reservation and no plans or dinner reservations, you might be able to get your ticket and reservation by waiting in line or working with your hotel concierge. No. If you show up without any plans, you might be out of luck. Advance restaurant reservations are basically essential these days, as many sites have changed their maximum capacity and other protocols. , planning ahead has become very important, and working with a good trip advisor can help you take away these details and ensure nothing is overlooked.”

This true honeymoon story quickly demonstrates four of the many reasons why a travel agent/advisor is essential to a great vacation.


1: They offer better rooms and even if you can't get a "sold out" hotel room. Believe it or not, the internet is great, but many top hotels don't list their suites or better rooms online, and many top hotels only have vacancies for top-notch producing advisors. A good travel agent brings in multiple bookings each year (or month), but even the luxury traveler only gets one booking once in a while, or even once in a lifetime. Who do you think cares more about keeping them happy? Plus, top agents often know her GM personally for decades. Through their advisers, Bingo, the newlyweds secured a room at a highly popular hotel in Venice booked for one of the busiest summers on record.


Anthony Goldman, third generation owner of Australia's leading agency Goldman Group, said: "They realized that if they booked directly, even if they spent thousands of dollars, they would get the worst room in their category because no one at the hotel knew."


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Good for you if you are a celebrity or CEO (and almost all celebrities and CEOs use advisors). I'll change it. As a comment, Ann Scully instead sent me the thank you notes she got from her customers. First time for us and loved the room upgrade and beautiful amenities.


2: Valuable advice, local knowledge, local connections. Greece is the first major foreign destination to welcome travelers returning from the coronavirus lockdown, and for quite some time it was thought that it might be the only place people could go in Europe. It has quickly become a super-popular destination for 2021 and 2022. Most Americans only know international hotel brands (not a big factor in Greece) and a few place names they've seen in travel magazines (Athens, Santorini, Mykonos). The adviser I suggested took them to Crete, Greece's largest island. There, they were still able to enjoy excellent restaurants, not at the top but well-known resorts.


Getaway Guild's Washington says: “One of the ways we do that is by knowing the alternatives that fit the client's style and desires. This summer we might choose Malta instead of Italy and Guatemala instead of Costa Rica. More than ever, it has become very important to have confidence in who you are working with, we have built a certain level of trust so our clients are willing to work with us. As a result, we have built trusting relationships with our suppliers over the years. Sadly, many travel operators have not survived the pandemic and many new ones have sprung up. How can an individual traveler properly weigh all the options? Do you know if we are similar? We have relationships with partners and suppliers all over the world and we know what they have been doing in the last two years. We know who gives money to staff and guides. I know people who spent time traveling and researching new products in their own country even when Americans couldn't travel. We carefully select people we can trust to invest in. Now that 'travel is back' we already have field experience with the 'current normal' of travel in different destinations, so it's What it is like, you can speak confidently about your supplier's service level. that our clients are in the best hands. ”


Advisors recently said that one of the biggest problems for them in the pandemic lockdown was the opening of new hotels that they couldn't go see, and that the agency hadn't personally vetted them. Told me it was something I was nervous about booking clients. Think about it - how many hotels have you stayed in when no one you know checked out for you? Having written this, I have to repeat myself when it comes to actual local knowledge and research.


“Want to rent a villa in Tuscany and do it yourself? It's easy. Type 'Villa Rentals Tuscany' into Google and you'll get 4.5 million answers. Good or bad, legit or fake, most answers look the same. Just spend 10 seconds reviewing each site and you'll be done in a year and a half - and still owe nothing. We now have 6.2 million results!


3: Bad things happen. On the day of our departure, two days after our wedding, our first flight for our honeymoon was cancelled. In a year of record flight cancellations and delays, that's not all that surprising. Recently, I called an airline with high frequent flyer status and was told that if I didn't fly today, they would call me back another day. There was a recording telling me to do it. it never happened. If you've ever seen the "help desk" (often phone-only) line at an airport, you can imagine what it's like to try to rebook an appointment on the go. A good advisor has a real-time view of a client's trip and usually knows about flight changes before you do and can do something about it, in this case they can make changes and A happy couple he missed a day and was on his way to Venice. Also, Ann Scully commented in her customer note:


This alone is reason enough to use a travel agency.


It's also a good time to point out that while building relationships with individual advisors, a good agency will have a full support her staff, including a dedicated broadcast department. That's how they can track it, and also why no matter how aviation savvy you think you are, you can get better fares and upgrades/use miles than you could on your own I've seen it with my own eyes over and over again and it's like magic. I often use advisors to book flights, but I fly like everyone I know and know all the tricks and tips very well. But Michael Holtz, founder of the wildly successful agency Smart Flyer, knows a lot more than I do and has literally miraculous ticketing (Smart Flyer is the airline's special We have expertise, but we are a full service travel agency and one of the best). .


Why You Need A Travel Agent Now More Than Ever

Easier, cheaper access to premium airline cabins is a key reason to use a good advisor.

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Before the pandemic, I went skiing in Japan and called Smart Flyer to write an article for Town + Country. He reserved $1,500 and he booked 100,000 United miles in business class to Tokyo and first class back. This was less than his third of the miles United quoted me for the same trip when I called Platinum Line. On a recent trip to Bali, Smart Flyer found Premium Economy to Hong Kong and Business Class flights to Hong Kong on one of the world's best airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways. Premium Economy is available on our website. It seems impossible, but it is.


“Working with an experienced travel advisor is more important than ever,” he says Holtz. “Today, Smart Flyer advisors have realized that being able to rely on relationships can create flexibility that sometimes seems like nothing. If you miss a night, we will coordinate your booking on your behalf and find the right solution with the property. This is because we are here to help you navigate the unpredictable aspects of travel in the current climate. This is just one example of how we advocate on behalf of


Why You Need A Travel Agent Now More Than Ever

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Goldman added that another major reason for the recent surge is travelers switching to advisors. "They call the airline to change the reservation and they put it on hold for 2 hours and 45 minutes. We have direct access to the GDS so we can change it in 2 minutes" (used by airlines and hotels).


4: Plans change. Towards the end of their honeymoon, they discover that a friend is also in Greece, renting a villa on another island. They decided to visit and the advisor put them on the right ferry and was able to change the departure flight home.


"I was recently contacted by a potential new client who had already booked part of their trip through a credit card program but needed help with detailed planning," he said. increase. “Sure, credit card programs can provide hotel amenities (as we do!), but they can’t provide the destination expertise of an experienced Trip Advisor. said it all. The guides and drivers were really top notch. We definitely saw a difference compared to when we arranged the tour ourselves…even when we had a small last minute change they were very accommodating On-the-fly changes are almost inevitable these days, so having Trip Advisor advocate and make adjustments on your behalf during your trip saves you a lot of time and money.”


Holtz adds: They are shocked at the personalization involved in booking through luxury travel advisor. It is no longer passed from call center agent to agent. Instead, Smart Flyer customers work with one of her dedicated advisors who makes recommendations based on customer preferences. This advisor is often learned and refined over the course of long-term relationships that span years and even decades. Upon arriving at your property, guests are often surprised to see their reservation prioritized at the top of the list of upgrades and amenities. Switching to agency booking is a complete game changer for travelers looking for a premium experience. ”


When calling a credit card, there is no agent, but a phone number. Ask any good advisor what their secrets are to success, and you'll probably hear the words "collaboration" and "personalization." Another Scully note of appreciation: "She had 9 people on this trip and thought this trip was made for each one of us. How did you make it happen?" We won't leave home without you!


These four reasons are just a few of the answers to the question of why use an advisor. - All of this happened on her one very important trip of a lifetime. But there are things like:


Save money: Many people think that trip advisor is more expensive. Some charge an hourly consulting fee or a per-service fee (no fees) for things like airline ticket bookings. But they often get cheaper fares than you, especially for premium class travel and extras like room upgrades and essential amenities.


Why You Need A Travel Agent Now More Than Ever

This is where associations like Virtuoso come into play. Virtuoso is a global consortium of leading travel agencies, mostly in the luxury goods space, with agencies such as Smart Flyer, Embark Beyond, Goldman Group and Getaway Guild all affiliated. Agencies affiliated with Virtuoso are independent and are free to recommend and book whatever they want. But we also have travel agents, from individual hotels to chains, cruise lines and tour operators, and to do so, we need to provide additional fees to the agents and their customers. The reason they do so is that Virtuoso members his agency as a whole have enormous financial clout. 2019 was our last 'normal' year before the pandemic, with $26.4 billion in travel expenses booked.


Virtuoso (Luxury Foods Foods including Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Six Senses, Aman, Anantara, Auberge, Ritz-Carlton, Park Hyatt, Peninsula, Shangri-La and The Luxury Collection) hotel benefits are contractually required. So, anyone who books through a Virtuoso agency automatically enjoys complimentary daily breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in, late check-out, free airport transfers, spa credits, and more (details vary by hotel). available free of charge. According to Virtuoso, hotel perks alone are worth him an average of more than $500 per stay.


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The benefits of cruises can be even greater. Booking a cruise on your own without going through an advisor is utterly ridiculous. This is an industry with large inventories with large swings in supply and demand from week to week, built on the loyalty of both frequent repeat customers and the travel agents who book them, and neither cruise company has lost. I don't want to. Basically, staying in a deluxe suite costs as much as a cheaper room is available. Unlike hotel rooms, when the ship sets sail, no one shows up at the last minute looking for a suite. But it's the customers who use advisors who get those upgrades, often multiple classes plus free shore excursions, onboard credits, and all sorts of stuff, just like paying directly. We offer the same price.


We've already talked about how to save money on flights, but a single trip can amount to thousands of dollars. When you get more than you expected for the same price, it's a win, and it often happens on trip advisor.


Again, the best way to find an advisor is to recommend someone with travel styles and instincts you trust. If you don't have that option, Virtuoso has an online "matchmaker" engine that lets you enter your favorite places, interests, and types of trips, and suggests suitable advisors. Either way, the interview can be done over the phone - in today's world you don't have to be in the same place. In fact, if your trip is similar to other countries, for example if you ski in Europe or if you like the Maldives and go to beach resorts in places like Mallorca or Bodrum frequented by Europeans. , you might be better off. UK distributors know them better. Either way, if you feel that the conversation isn't about you enough and doesn't understand your needs, move on.


A big key is good communication that fosters collaboration. For me, a good trip advisor is proactive and doesn't just respond to you calling and saying you want to go to Paris. For example, I recently spoke with active travel company Backroads about how they cycled the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. I wrote here about how I started a new trip. If you're an avid cyclist and whiskey lover, you probably don't know travel exists. It's your advisor's job to let you know—another reason to have it.


There are many reasons to use trip advisor at any time, but in a chaotic world of uncertainty, cancellations, rapidly evolving border rules, and last-minute changes, there are even more. , the best reason is because you can travel better. That's why we travel in the first place.


Again, what I wrote here on Forbes many years ago still holds true. They plan your trip better and provide a safety net. Using a top travel agency will make you a VIP in no time, and will certainly save you time, hassle, and possibly money. ”


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