Travel Agents: So Many Choices, Who to Choose?
A guest blog by: Anna Swenson, Travel Specialist, Journeys Inc.
In the past several years, we have seen a huge growth of people becoming travel agents. Now, not only do you have to choose where to go on vacation, you now must choose who to book your vacation with!
Here are a couple of things to look for or ask a travel agent before you request them to help you book your next vacation:
1) Are they certified? Many who want to be an agent can take a quick class online and then say they are an agent, but have they taken the further steps to get personally certified in what they sell?
2) Does the agent have Resort contacts and Business Development/Sales Manager contacts? We all hope your vacation goes perfect, but on the chance that something goes wrong or you need help onsite or during the reservation process, does the agent have the support of the resort, vendor and sales team? A good agent spends time traveling to destinations making contacts with the resorts they sell, attending seminars, and trainings, as well as meeting with their vendors, sales and business development managers on a consistent basis.
3) Do you have a specialty? Many agents have specialties in locations they sell. This is extremely helpful not only to the traveler but also for the agent, so they know the product inside and out. It is impossible to know the entire world, so agents that are the most helpful are those that choose a couple locations and really know the destinations, travel to the location and know the people at the resorts, cruises, etc.
4) Traveled to the locations they are selling – While it may be impossible to have travelled everywhere, if you read #3, you hopefully choose an agent who knows the location you are traveling to (or have tremendous vendor partners who can help the agent out). It is important to have that agent who knows the resorts firsthand, tasted the food, saw the rooms or staterooms, and understands the feel of the area so they can identify the best trip for you. Otherwise, you might as well pick blindly online yourself! Ask the agent where they have personally traveled to in the past 5 years and listen to their response.
5) Social Media, reviews and referrals – Check out their website and social media. If they have too few “likes” (100 or under) they are either very new or not active, too many “likes” (20,000 or so) and they could be buying them, so it is not accurate. Check out their latest posts, have they not posted for months? It could be a clue they are not doing this full time or are not very active in the industry. Read the reviews from real past clients, see pictures from past client trips the agent was tagged in. Have they won any awards? Gotten any travel industry recognitions? If you were referred to the agent, you know that is typically the best way to find a good reputable agent.
Side note on social media and travel advice that I must get off my chest: Please be careful asking your friends/family or putting on your social media asking for travel advice. What is good for one of your friends may not be good for you and what you are looking for. Everyone has different taste, budget, likes/dislikes, preferences and only a wonderful travel agent who ask the right questions and listen to your answers will be able to find the best place for your next vacation! Ahhh, I feel better now.
6) Do you have access to the extra companies you may need like travel insurance and tour operators?- Good, connected agents often have other choices for things like travel insurance and excursions. They are sometimes less expensive, have better coverage, less people on the tours, better tour guides, etc than those that are offered as part of the cruise or travel package.
We hope this helps you understand the travel agent industry a little better. While using a travel agent is essentially “free,” you want to make sure you pick the correct agent for you, just as you would a doctor, lawyer, or realtor! They are dealing with your hard-earned vacation dollars and memories after all!