With over ten years in the travel industry, I thought it was about time I let you guys ask the questions. Was I feeling brave or stupid? Read on to find out…
Q- Ayngelina from Bacon Is Magic
I’d love to ask what a travel agent’s advice is when you arrive at an all-inclusive and discover your room smells like mildew?
A- First things first- If you’ve booked through a tour operator then your first point of contact should be your Customer Service Rep. Unfortunately this is a very common problem in tropical locations & this is the reason why a lot of hotel staff will shrug it off. If you don’t have a Rep at your hotel you should at least have a contact for someone in case of any issues.
When you have booked your room direct with the hotel or through a third-party hotel booking system then unfortunately you will have to either contact the third-party site to see if there is anything they can do or insist that the hotel offers you a new room. If they are part of a chain you could try to search for a customer relations department & raise your concerns with them. Another option is to talk with the hotel management but again, they could be as unhelpful as the reception staff.
Q- Joella from Paper Crane Stories
Why should someone use a travel agent in the age of the internet? Can’t it all be done online?
A- You’d be surprised by the amount of people who still use travel agents. A lot of older people use them as they don’t trust the internet/don’t have access to it. A lot of couples & families still use travel agents as they like to have a person to talk to is something goes wrong. These people will normally find the holiday they want online first & then request an internet price match in store which they are well within their right to do.
A lot of agencies will match internet prices but perhaps charge a £10 booking fee to cover their services such as printing off the tickets, answering any of their questions & normally they throw in a discount on insurance or foreign exchange.
So yes, a lot can be done online but a lot of people still don’t trust online booking.
Q- Liliane from My Toronto, My World
Why does it take so long for travel agents to find itineraries? I reached out to 5-6 who all took weeks to get back to me for things I found online in hours.
A- I would say that’s pretty bad customer service! At my old agency we only had one computer that we could access shop emails on, but each day our manager would dish out the emails to the team to put together. If it was a particularly complex itinerary then it would perhaps take an extra day to put together, but we would always acknowledge the email. Also, if you email at a weekend looking for more than a point to point itinerary you may not receive a response until the start of the week as weekends are an agents busiest time. Personally, i would never book with an agency that took weeks to respond to me. It shows that they have no interest in you.
Q- Rachel from The Kiwi Couple
What’s the worst thing that’s happened to one of your clients on holiday?
A- When i worked as a Holiday Rep, I actually had a guest who died! It was horrific. He was part of a big family group of around 12 so there was the kids, the mums & dads & then the grandparents. He was the Granddad & unfortunately had a heart attack. The resort I worked in only had one flight day back to the UK which luckily was that same day so the family could return home & be with the rest of their family. No amount of training can ever prepare you for something like that.
Q- Kendal from Getaway Girl
In which ways can travel agents save me money?
A- I think for what is known as a ‘bucket & spade holiday’ you can find good deals yourself online. For things like complex round the world tickets or multi centre holidays, your travel agent can find some deals that you may not find online. A good example is Trail Finders or STA travel in the UK. They have negotiated fares with certain airlines that are exclusive to them which you won’t find elsewhere. Not all travel agents are the same – Make sure you are using the correct agent for your trip. For example, if I’m looking at a multi centre USA trip with Virgin then I’m going to use Virgin Holidays as they have access to the best fares for their airline whereas for a 2 month tour around Asia I would head to STA as I know they specialise in budget long-term travel.
Q- Danielle from Travel Food Adventures
What is the benefit of a travel agent?
A- With a travel agent, you always have someone you can hold accountable. Fir example- it’s 3 days before you leave for your dream holiday to Egypt but the FCO have placed a ban on all travel to the region. If you’ve booked independently then you’re the one who has to contact all of the suppliers to try & arrange a refund….and that’s if you’re lucky! If you’ve booked online with an ABTA agent then you will be protected…but then so are the 5,000 other passengers who are currently trying to get through to the same call centre you are.
By booking with a travel agent you can call them up or pop into the store & have them sort out your refund or replacement holiday there & then.
Q- Reagan from The Modern Adventurist
How do you customise itineraries for your clients? In my opinion travel agencies have always produced “cookie cutter” itineraries?
A- Again, depending on which travel agency you use depends on what they can offer you. When I worked for a UK agent they would only really sell ‘cookie cutter’ holidays. More complex itineraries could be done but they were extremely time-consuming as we didn’t have the systems to complete these in store. Whereas more specialised agencies have access to what’s called a GDS which gives access to pretty much every flight everywhere & they can piece together extremely complex itineraries & tickets that you wouldn’t be able to access online.
When I worked in the corporate side of travel I had access to a GDS & you really can come up with some incredible itineraries! I had a passenger who lived in Madagascar but worked in places like Ciudad Del Carmen in Mexico or Perth Australia. Where he lived in Madagascar only had one flight a week & it wasn’t always the same day each week. Add into the mix that the countries with the most direct route we couldn’t fly him through due to visa restrictions. It was a complete nightmare! But we always managed to get him home as quick as we could.
Q- Deah from Palm Tree Musings
As more and more travel stuff exists on the internet, are people actually getting information overload and are maybe more likely to use a travel agent now?
A- I think there has definitely been a trend, especially with those who have had bad experiences booking online, that people are turning back to travel agents. The difference is that customers are doing their own research & making sure the price they are being charged is the cheapest available. Or, I’ve had customer sit with me for a good couple of hours trying to find their ideal holiday & them not to book. They then return the next day after looking at Trip Advisor or investigating prices & I’ve then matched the online price as they felt more comfortable booking with a person rather than over the phone or online. People like people!
Q- Amy from Page Traveller
Can a travel agent help me if I’m a solo, shoestring-budget traveller?
A- Yes! This is what agents like STA Travel were invested for! They specialise in travel on a shoe string! They also have access to special fares that can only be booked through them. If you are looking for a complex itinerary then there are definitely agencies out there that can help budget travellers.
Q- Gabby from Packs Light
What sort of benefits do you get as a travel agent (miles, rewards, etc)?
A- Not as many as you’d think! I tell my friends who ask the same question that it’s more you know where to look to find good deals rather than getting crazy discounts.
Now don’t get me wrong, some travel agencies will give you thinks like say £300 off your holiday after 1yrs service going up to £1000. Others who own the airline will give you flights where you only pay the taxes- the catch is that you’re always on standby so could be bumped off the flight for a paying customer instead.
You do get small perks like some airlines will organise nights out all expenses paid, others pop in at Easter & Christmas with chocolate goodies. You do have opportunities to enter competitions to win flights but it’s very rare someone you know will win.
There is also a travel agent FOR travel agents who have hotels & airlines that offer agents discounts but again, they all have very strict terms & conditions. Plus, sometimes I’ve found the hotels for the same price online when the hotels have a promotion on.
Q- Dan from I Am Dan Elson
Any tips from a travel agent on how to get the best flight price?
A- Find a friend who has access to a GDS! If you don’t have that then I highly recommend using the likes of Skiplagged (Shameless post plug! I’m honestly not sponsored by them!). They really are a great tool for finding cheap flights. I also recommend checking with airlines directly as a lot of third-party sites will take a commission from the sale. Sign up for airline reward cards as these are the first people to be informed of any sales happening. And avoid travelling on a Friday or Monday! These days are the most expensive.
So there you have it! I asked & these are the questions the internet wanted answered. Are there any questions YOU would like answered? Let me know in the comments below!