Agent or Internet?

A question I am often asked when I am out socially and someone hears I am ‘in the travel business’ is “How do you compete with the internet?”  “It’s so easy for people to source their own information online these days and make their own travel plans.”

Quite frankly, if you are internet savvy and you need an airline ticket to visit your family or friends, I say ‘go on-line’ and do it yourself.  But if you may need to change the travel date or city visited or need to coordinate stops or multiple travelers, maybe paying a small fee is actually a  good idea.

When shopping for best values, you may have to visit multiple websites to make cost and schedule comparisons and you can ultimately wind up spending a fair amount of time.  Are you going to remember to confirm to be sure that what you booked is still operating as originally scheduled?  Now what happens when  your connection in Chicago is cancelled due to a weather or mechanical delay…who are you going to call to assist to you make alternate arrangements?   You certainly can queue up with the other 250 stranded passengers…or maybe you would  rather check into a nearby hotel while your travel agent sorts it all out for you.   Some people have the time and patience, and may even enjoy the process…so go for it.

I receive many calls from very internet savvy and sharp folks who say…”I have spent  countless hours in the last month searching  dozens of websites for this or that, and I am more confused than when I started.  I know where we want to go, but I need a villa in this region for 9 with en suite acomedation and a chef for 3 nights,  and we need to be walking distance to a hill village or I need to meet this price point for 4 nights in Paris and Rome and Barcelona…or we want to go on a cruise, but we are trying to satisfy the budget requirements and tastes for 5 different couples, etc”. You can hear the relief in their voice when after a few minutes of conversation, you tell them that you will be happy to take over navigating the overwhelming array of choices while meeting their expectations and budgetary requirements.

Recently a career couple were referred to me from an existing client.  They wanted to visit Europe to celebrate a special birthday and thought that they would like to include their two adult working daughters while it was still possible to have a  family journey.  After visiting  and discussing several options, the couple decided a ‘cruise’ for just the two of them, followed by a rendezvous in a Tuscan villa with the daughters for a week was the perfect combination.    Reservations were made….the cruise, the villa chosen, hotels,  air schedules shopped and coordinated …payments made and wow….only 5 months before the journeys begin.

One telephone call advises the agent that the cruise line has opted to sell the ship out to a private charter group and the clients significant investment and months of planning the dream journey went overboard !

Well, some people’s immediate reaction might be ‘sue the cruise line’. The point being that the clients are counting on this family holiday.. the vacation days have been reserved, and oopss…things happen, even when you are working with reputable suppliers!  So now the travel agent becomes the negotiator and peace maker  and begins the challenge of rebooking an equally appealing itinerary for similar dates without incurring additional expense. Hours and days of  planning go on behind the scenes before calling the clients and giving them the news.

Think of travel consultants as a great source of first hand travel experiences, credible affiliates and travel partners around the world (constantly updated and revised) .  Access to valuable relationships, constant industry education and interaction, and savvy technology systems enable a professional consultant to engineer a wonderful journey out of the constantly fluctuating complexities of travel opportunities.  The best interests of the clients are an agent’s priority and their clout and affiliations can often resolve a seemingly impossible situation.

Recently ’20/20″ reported that travel agents generally beat consumers at uncovering the best airfares.  But whether it’s airline seats, hotel rooms, cruise cabins, or tour operators, more often than not, a  professional travel consultant will get you better value, extra amenities, and save you money despite their consultation fees.  Remember, a travel agent  has their clients best interest at heart.  And most will go the extra mile to ensure a memorable journey every time.

So next time you are thinking of taking a journey, maybe you should consider saving yourself time and money by engaging the services of a reputable travel agent.

Colleen Lamont, CTC

Travel Consultant

503.546.1058 – direct
866.297.1058 – toll free

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