Up until the last 20 years, if a traveler wanted to book anything from a simple airline ticket to a grand vacation package, their primary option was to consult with a travel agent.
In most cases, the travel agent could be found at a brick-and-mortar travel agency. In later years, travel agents could also be found through call centers – American Express was a pioneer in offering travel services through large, dedicated call centers.
Enter the internet age and along with that, the age of eCommerce travel. Very quickly, eCommerce travel sites threatened to decimate the traditional travel industry, displacing agents by the thousands, and making the very idea of a travel agency obsolete.
And while in 2018, eCommerce travel is only gaining market share, the traditional travel agency model hasn’t died. While many have closed shop, there are still those that are still in demand for travel clients who literally want the human touch when planning their vacations.
Below are the most common reasons why travel agents and agencies are still in demand:
A travel agent understands the nuanced difference between the words value, or cheap. When both keywords are entered into a search engine, they’ll trigger results allowing the traveler to save money.
But a travel agent understands that the traveler looking for a value vacation wants the best amenities packaged for the best financial value possible. This is the type of traveler who wants to maximize their spending power. Therefore, value doesn’t always equate to cheap.
On the other hand, a cheap vacation strictly addresses price. A traveler looking for a cheap vacation package might expect to be led to 1 to 3 star hotels, and economic lower-end model vehicles.
The airline portion of their vacation might be booked on an economy airline that charges a fee for every piece of baggage, peanuts, and other line items that come standard on other airlines. However, the traveler who’s interested in cheap travel doesn’t care about lower-end amenities. They’re usually in a hurry or desperate to get to their destination.
The job of a good travel agent is to advocate on behalf of their clients. If the agent knows that a particular destination or hotel property would be a better fit for the client’s needs, then they’ll make the appropriate suggestions. In short, a human travel agent has the emotional intelligence and the empathy that travel platforms simply don’t.
For all of their fine tuning and programming, the best interactive travel platforms can only offer reactive responses to the traveler’s queries.
When a traveler wants to get the inside scoop on a travel destination, they have the option of reading online reviews. The reviews supposedly serve as testimony from previous travelers to the destination, but with overwhelming incidence of online review fraud, can a traveler really put their faith in online travel reviews?
On the other hand, a travel agent who has visited a destination, a resort, or a property, can give their first-hand testimony on what that travel client can reasonably expect from their visit. The agent can also offer juicy insider tips that could only come from a professional in the industry.
On the other hand, when travelers combine the power of eCommerce travel platforms, along with eCommerce coupon and rebate platforms, they often can plan a very enjoyable vacation package, at any time of day or night, and very efficiently.
Let’s look at an example of how to use eCom platforms to plan a trip of Las Vegas.
The first thing the traveler would do is to figure out how to get to Vegas. In most case, they’re going to fly there, so they’d either pull up the website of their favorite airline carrier (where they’d find the best price deals, btw), or they’d pull up a website like Priceline.
Priceline allows travelers to compare airline pricing, and in many cases, the traveler can score leftover plane seats at a cheaper price by pitching the site a price. If the price is accepted, then they’ll score the ticket at their desired price.
Now the traveler will need to decide where they’re going to stay during their Las Vegas trip. No problem! They can visit sites such as TripAdvisor, where they can not only find negotiated hotel packages, but they can also read the reviews of the hotel posted by previous travelers.
Now that they’ve secured their airfare and hotel, the traveler will probably want something to do during their stay. Specialized travel sites such as Vegas.com will handle all aspects of local entertainment choices. The traveler can plug in specific dates and find out which major and minor entertainment productions will be showing at a particular casino, or other venue.
They can buy tickets to local attractions, both on and off the Las Vegas Strip. They can also score deals on meals at local restaurants, casino buffets, and more. And here’s the best part for the traveler looking for efficiency:
They can plan their entire Las Vegas vacation, from front to back, all under an hour!
They can book the entire vacation at all hours of the day or night, weekdays or weekends. They can pay for everything online, and they can download tickets, itineraries, and boarding passes from their computers, too.
While all of these innovations might scare many in the tradition travel industry, Travel Technology and Solutions reports
Travel agents are still responsible for almost 77% of the total cruise bookings, 55% of air travel bookings and 73% of travel package bookings. According to travel agents, the growth and advancements in technology have helped to enhance communication, convenience, productivity, speed of business and marketing.