Firms Stress Value of Agentson October 21st, 2011
In a recently published news article in the Travel Weekly I read that the importance of travel agents has again been stressed by the industry’s major chains after a year of natural disasters and political uprisings. The idea that without a travel agent you’re on your own has been shown to be a valid in the past 12 months. The article goes on to say that Agents needs to be adaptable to new technology and Qantas credited travel agencies with 70% of its overall sales.
I will say that as a Group Travel specialist and Personal Travel Manager there are many other valuable reasons to book with a travel agent and I think that many travellers do not take these factors into consideration when booking online.
Recently one of my client’s husbands called me to advised that his wife’s sister had passed away less than 2 hours before. As my client was in Kuala Lumpur on business and it was the middle of the night there, my client’s husband decided not to disturb her sleep as she would need to be well rested when she was told of the distressing news. While my client was sleeping in Kuala Lumpur I cancelled her current booking, booked her on the next available flight to Melbourne, started the process of the refund of the original ticket and prepared the paperwork for her insurance claim. As she woke in Kuala Lumpur her husband called to advise of the arrangements made, a car was waiting for her in the lobby and she was straight off to the airport to board her flight to be with her family.
I cannot imagine the difference this would have made if she had have booked herself online. She would have most likely had to have called the airline herself (most airlines will only speak to the passenger or the travel agent), she probably would have been on hold for a long time to try to speak to strangers in a foreign country. Not only that she would have also discovered that the airline she had booked with could not accommodate her on a flight home that day, she would have then had to start the whole process of looking for a new ticket, losing valuable time in the process.
When booking Group Travel, School Travel, Educational Travel, Volunteer Travel or Sports Travel it is absolutely vital that the teachers or group organisers use a professional travel planner or travel agent. This will provide the parents with added security that should something unexpected happen to an individual, to their family or to the entire group then there is someone on the ground available to make the necessary arrangements. Teachers have to dedicate themselves to a whole group so they cannot take themselves away to make the phone calls and negotiations with airlines.
There is of course another advantage of using a travel agent to book your group travel arrangements, they can take away the stress of all of the organising phone calls and questions. It’s a tough job just organising an individual with passports, visas, travel documents, travel advice and travel insurance, let alone 25 students!!! So why would you try to organise the entire group yourself when you can hand all of these extra stresses to a travel agent? Once a booking is made you simply hand over the phone number of the agent to the parents and the hassle is taken from you.
A few months ago a client was planning a wedding in Thailand and she asked for my help. I think she was perhaps reluctant to ask for help because she felt that her wedding party would end up paying more than if they tried to book online themselves, she gave me a go anyway. To her surprise she found that my prices were lower than what the group were able to secure on the internet. I was able to negotiate group buying rates with the resort, I matched internet flight prices and discounted the groups travel insurance by 10%. To the brides surprise all of her guests paid less booking with me than they would have if they had booked online.
I met with the bride last week to pass on her travel documents and she could not thank me enough. She was aware of some of the issues I had to deal with, the questions I was asked, finding suitable insurance policies and the financial issues some of the group encountered. She was so delighted that she did not have to deal with the issues directly which could have impacted on the enjoyment of her wedding party. It’s all in a day’s work for me, I am used to the questions and the issues, she would not have known how to deal with them. She was relieved that the only stress she has to deal with is buying her dress and getting to the airport in time.
The internet also gives you the impression that you are getting the best deal but it is not sophisticated enough to decide that you are better off buying 2 separate airfares or an air pass for your itinerary. I have had clients come to me in the past and they have questioned my booking because the internet does not give them the same price or itinerary, it’s more expensive online and how can that be!!
So when shopping online are you really getting the best deal? Are you really getting a great service?
Personal Travel Manager and Group Travel Specialist
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