I was under the opinion that travel agents are not necessary in this Internet savvy age. I was wrong.
On my failed Fathom Cruise, many of the passengers were travel agents coming to check out this new innovative cruise line – just like me. There were so many of them, that I took notice especially since I assumed the industry was dead. I had “heard” that if you want to save money traveling, arrange for it all by yourself on the Internet because then you wouldn’t be paying the “middleman” fees that a travel agent would be charging you for the same trip. Apparently, that is an urban legend; using a travel agent might actually save you money in the long run.
Barbara didn’t start out to be a travel agent; she has only been in the industry for 11 years. Barbara is a credentialed teacher, having taught kindergarten through college classes. Why did she pursue a second career in the travel industry? As a committed lifelong learner, Barbara found it was a good way to continue her education and learning – and travel. Barbara relishes being an authority in her field and helping her customers. This was evident on our first night when we were all waiting in a very long line to register in our hotel. Where was Barbara? Offering snacks to everyone in line, making sure they were comfortable. And we weren’t even her customers!!Travel agents pay their own way in taking lots of classes at conferences and conventions in order to stay current in their industry with travel information and with travel destinations. Many of the courses they take provide certification in a specialized area. For instance, Barbara is an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) certified travel agent. What that means is that she can help clients who use wheel chairs, walkers or have other mobility issues find hotels, transportation, and tours that cater to those needs – something that would be fairly difficult to arrange on one’s own. This knowledge comes in handy especially for Barbara’s clients when they are traveling to Europe, a continent that is not very ADA-friendly.
Many of the other travel agents I spoke with, told me how they are certified by various cruise lines. These agents have spent many hours learning and testing to be familiar with the ins and outs a particular cruise line has to offer. Through this training, Barbara learned that Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line that is autism certified for its passengers.
Travel agents are also constantly building relationships with vendors all over the world so that they can make reliable and trusted connections to recommend to their clients. These relationships pay off as they can assure their client that they are getting what they envision with no hassle.
Safety is another area that travel agents are current and knowledgeable. They can advise clients regarding their credit card and phone company accounts as they prepare for their trip as well as offer assistance in contacting these companies something should happen during the trip. Barbara showed me how she stresses the importance of using an RFID shield for passports and credit cards.
I asked her what she thought about our failed cruise. She replied that she was glad it happened to her and not one of her clients. And that she was “over the top” impressed with how Fathom handled the situation. Barbara pointed out that we were fortunate that Fathom took full responsibility. Many times, if a misfortune happens on a trip, the traveler is left alone to cope with the situation. It that traveler has a travel agent, they can turn the frustration and change of plans over to their agent to represent them.
And what about those extra fees that I was sure a travel agent charged to use their service? Barbara pointed out that the companies they deal with give incentives to the travel agents, who in turn pass on those savings to their clients. In other words, in most cases, you will pay the exact same amount with or without a travel agent. But with a travel agent, you also get peace of mind – which is priceless.
From now on, I’m using a travel agent. What about you?