With scammers now posing as travel agents, we asked the experts how to avoid wasting time and money with a fake travel agent.
Travel agents can save you time and money, and don’t even think about booking a Disney cruise or vacation without one. But you wouldn’t hire a doctor, lawyer, babysitter, or handyman without checking their references. Why should a travel agent be any different?
After all, it could just be someone sitting behind a computer who has no idea what they’re doing, or worse, it could be a con artist who disappears as soon as you hand over your vacation money.
In one case, Christine Hayes from Pennsylvania posed as a fake travel agent and managed to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than 80 people she tricked into buying vacation packages. Reality: She sold them tickets to nowhere, according to NBC. We spoke with the experts to find out what you should look for before handing over your money and personal information to anyone claiming to be a travel agent.
Look for ASTA Qualifications and Membership
While there is no‘t any specific certifications that travel agents need to acquire to become travel agents, each host agency should have its own training program, which could range from taking courses in geography, business management and marketing to simply watching several YouTube videos, says Nicole Donoway , travel agent and owner of Destinations by Donoway.
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But travel agents must be (but are not required) to be members of the American Society of Travel Counselors, which is an association guaranteeing ethical business practices. ASTA also offers a Verified Travel Advisor program, which teaches professional knowledge.
Cruise travel agents must be trained by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), which provides several levels of training depending on how many years you‘have been an agent and the level of knowledge you have. The first level is Certified Cruise Counselor, which gives agents a good starting point for selling cruises. The Better Business Bureau also recommends contacting the American Society of Travel Agents to check if the travel agent‘re recital belongs to this organization. You should also check their Best deals profile for any complaints.
Beware of travel agents who are not specialized
Every travel agent should have a specific specialty, and that could range from Disney to cruises to exotic vacations, says Sandra McLemore, travel industry expert, travel TV host and business coach for travelers. travel advisors.
“In the same way that you see a specialist in your body: cardiologist, dermatologist, dentist, etc., do the same for each vacation you take,” explains McLemore. “If I go to a Disney Resort or on a Disney Cruise Ship, I will only work with a Disney Specialist, but if I‘I take a cruise on the Nile to see the pyramids of Egypt, I‘I will move on to another travel advisor and work with a river cruise specialist.”
Verify Travel ID and Agent Registration
Travel counselors are either registered with a host agency or have taken steps to become independently certified. These travel consultants carry insurance called Errors and Omissions which can protect them and the traveler, in addition to standard travel insurance. Look for the agent‘s Travel ID and full registration, insurance and certification details on the website, and donation‘Don’t be afraid to Google them to back up their website claims, advises McLemore.
Don’t skip reviews
We do this before buying a car or a fridge, so why not consult your potential agent as well?
“It is important to look for evidence that they know what they are talking about, but also that they listen and support customers not only for the reservation, but also when problems arise because, let‘face to face, it happens,” says Dawn Kidd, Certified Cruise Consultant and Certified Travel Consultant at Kidd Travel.
Come prepared with questions
Before hiring an agent, find out their expertise in the area you want to travel to and be specific, says Stephanie Chastain, owner of Infinite Ireland Travel Co., a boutique travel agency specializing in Ireland itineraries.
“Have they planned multiple trips there? Did they go there themselves? Can they name an experience, hotel or restaurant that might suit you during a quick chat? Chatain asks. If they answer “no” or if you can’t give a definite answer, you may want to keep looking for another agent.
The best agents have an established network of on-the-ground partners who are focused on delivering authentic local experiences. Plus, says Chastain, travelers these days have easy access to hotel packages and rooms online, so when looking for professional service for expert advice, make sure they really are the experts. .
Keep an eye out for those red flags
If there is‘There’s no phone number to reach them, that’s a major red flag, says Emily Smith, a former travel agent and blog owner, The Woman Abroad. Another red flag: they only work at specific times, and there‘There is no way to reach them after hours if you have an emergency.
You should also get a written copy of the quote or contract showing what’s included in your trip, along with the dates, total cost, payment schedule, and anything else you need to know about the vacation. If any of them are missing, move on to the next agent stat, Smith says.