When Calista West started planning a trip to Sedona, Arizona, seeing a local healer was on her to-do list. She shared her aspirations with her travel consultant afterwards. But when West tried to make an appointment with the doctor, he was unavailable.
Then his travel agent, Shelly Brie, sent on West’s route. Shelly had worked with some of her personal connections in Sedona to secure an appointment with the overbooked healer.
“Brie really went above and beyond,” says West, a jeweler from Nantucket Island in Massachusetts.
Welcome to the future of travel advisors. Yes, they can read your mind – or at least they will try.
“Our clients are always impressed with how close friends we are with so many of the hoteliers and tour operators around the world that we work with,” says Shelly, who works for an aptly named agency. Embark beyond. “It is these connections and destination knowledge that allow us to improve customer itineraries.”
Shelly says she’s not a mind reader, but she paid attention to West’s wish list when reaching out. The healer was to be part of the itinerary, along with spa treatments, red rock treks, and other activities.
When it comes to travel agents, the gap is widening between online agents who simply process your travel requests and well-trained travel consultants who do what no computer can do, i.e. anticipating travelers’ needs even before they ask.
Why use a travel agency for your next trip?
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You need a travel consultant because traveling is complicated
Travel is more complex than ever, to begin with. A few decades ago, for example, airlines only offered economy and business class or first class options. There are now dozens of additional options and fees. For travel products with more moving parts, like cruises or tours, it’s easy to get lost. Same thing for travel insurance.
“Some components of the travel buyer’s journey are complex,” said Tim Dodge, vice president of marketing at Arch RoamRight travel insurance. “Travel counselors invest in training and develop a deep understanding of the industry.”
Take your average African safari, for example. In the past, when you booked one yourself, you had to worry about airfare, airport transfers, before and after hotels and optional extensions, as well as vaccination requirements. But now, with COVID-19 on the loose, you also have additional vaccine and testing requirements. A travel consultant who specializes in safaris can provide peace of mind, says Marcelo Novais, managing director for North America at Ker & Downey Africaa tour operator in Cape Town, South Africa.
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“Travel counselors help navigate the new complexities of travel,” he says. “They can activate their network to ensure that if something goes wrong, they can easily negotiate with suppliers to reschedule your trip and secure your investment.”
This is especially true for coronavirus testing requirements, according to Sherry Sutton, vice president of marketing at International insured trip. “Rules and regulations are constantly changing, so working with a travel advisor can help alleviate some of the stress of navigating these changes and help customers identify the best places to travel during these times,” it notes. she.
How to find a travel consultant
Where can I find a travel consultant? By far the best method is a word of mouth recommendation from a well-traveled friend. You can also check out the American Society of Travel Advisors website, Travelsense.org. Or you can find an agent through a consortium of travel advisors like Travel Group Together.
David HarrisCEO of Ensemble Travel Group, says that while its agents may not be able to read your mind, they can add a little surprise and fun to your trip.
“What I think will surprise people who have never used an advisor before is that they will get additional benefits,” he said. “It could be an upgrade at their hotel, early check-in or late check-out or maybe a little surprise waiting for them in the room upon arrival.”
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And don’t just go with the first travel consultant you see. I’ve covered strategies for finding the right agent in a previous browser, but here are the highlights: read reviews, make sure they know the area you plan to visit, and check their agency affiliation for you ensure they are legitimate. . Look for a well-known hospitality agency like American Express, Travel LeadersWhere Together.
“If you work with an advisor who has a good affiliation, he has more ‘power’ with his suppliers”, explains Stéphanie Charboneau, travel advisor at Travel creates memories.
You may not need a travel agent, but…
You don’t need to plan your next trip with an advisor, experts say. A weekend visiting relatives or even a week at the beach may not require the expertise of a travel professional. And there’s always money: Many advisors charge a booking fee, and if you know exactly what you want, you can probably book the trip yourself online and save a few bucks.
There is also the conflict of interest inherent in the travel agency model. Your advisor may charge booking fees and also collect a commission from the cruise line or hotel. Additionally, travel agents sometimes receive other incentives to book certain cruise lines, resorts, or tours. This leads to the inevitable question of where the loyalties lie. Only the best travel agents can maintain a delicate balance between serving their customers and earning a commission.
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But for complex itineraries, it’s hard to match the efficiency of a travel consultant.
“You can book your trip, research COVID regulations, cancel and reschedule your plans if necessary, and purchase travel insurance on your own,” says Betsy Ball, co-founder of Euro travel coach, a travel consultant specializing in European itineraries. “But aren’t there other things you’d rather be doing?”
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Defensea 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps consumers solve their problems and helps those who can’t. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Are you planning a big trip in 2022? Here’s why you need a travel agent