“So what does a travel agent do, anyway?” It’s a question anyone who works in the industry has gotten asked — and it may be a question on your mind too. If you’ve been wondering what goes into planning trips and booking travel, here are some of the most common questions we get about our profession:
Q: Do travel agents still exist?
A: Since you’re reading this, you know the answer is “yes” — but the role of the travel agent has changed a lot over the years. Decades ago, you had to go to a travel agent to book any kind of travel, even just airline tickets! Today, of course, you can easily book simple, short trips on the internet. Many travel agents today focus on helping travelers book longer, more complicated trips, like multigenerational travel, honeymoons, and more. Travel agents have also morphed into travel “experts” who specialize in specific kinds of travel, like bespoke luxury travel, or vacations to a specific destination. Today’s savvy travel agent is focused on providing value, not just booking volume.
Q: Why book with a travel advisor, instead of doing it myself?
A: It’s true, you could still book your longer, more complicated trips online — but there are a bevy of benefits to working with a travel advisor (the term many travel agents prefer today). For one, travel advisors develop close working relationships with their travel suppliers and contacts, like hotel general managers and tour operators. That means that they’re in the know about the latest travel developments, and their connections often net their clients better services and extra amenities. Travel suppliers want to keep travel advisors (and their clients!) happy, so they’ll continue to work with them.
The other huge benefit is saving time and reducing stress for clients. Planning a trip can get very complicated, very quickly. And with so much information on the internet at your fingertips, it’s sometimes hard to know what information to trust. Travel advisors cut through the clutter by doing all of the research and booking for you, so you can just concentrate on having a good time. One study even put the amount of time the average person spends planning a trip at 24 hours — imagine what you could do with all that time you’ve saved by working with a travel advisor!
Q: How much do travel agents charge?
A: That’s totally up to the individual travel agent. Fewer suppliers are offering commission these days (for example, agents rarely earn commission on booking airline tickets), so they may charge a planning fee so that they can spend plenty of time researching and booking your trip. Plus, by charging a planning fee, travel advisors do not have to rely solely on commissions to make a living, which means they can choose travel experiences that are truly the perfect fit for clients — rather than creating a trip around a commissionable product. Today, you are paying for a travel agent's expertise, not just the process of booking.
Q: I bet you get to go everywhere for free!
A: Well, not quite. The life of a travel advisor isn’t all 1st class seats to exotic locations! Many travel advisors, however, do go on what are called Familiarization (FAM) trips, hosted by a specific travel supplier, like a resort or cruise line. These trips may be offered to advisors at a discounted rate, but travel advisors must attend seminars about the supplier and tour the property in return. The purpose of these trips is to learn more about the supplier so that advisors can better serve their clients. FAM trips come with very little sleep or time to explore outside of the property — but the amount of knowledge that travel advisors gain, to pass on to their clients, makes it so worth it.
Do you have another question about what it’s like to be, or work with, a travel advisor? Send your question our way! We’d be happy to shed some more light on what it’s like to work with our incredible clients everyday.