There are 3 huge myths out there about travel agents, or travel professionals as most would prefer to be called – and quite rightly too. This word “agent” is the basis for Myth #1.
Merriam Webster defines agent as: a person who does business for another person; a person who acts on behalf of another. It implies no special skills or knowledge. If we go to the movies, and you hand me money to buy your ticket as you are off to the concessions stand, I am now your agent for this purchase. I don’t have to have special knowledge about the movie, the theatre or its ticketing procedures.
There is a reason travel agents prefer the word professional instead. The TP (for convenience) must have knowledge of what offers and specials are available for the vacation you have in mind, the value inherent in each (as price does not always reflect value), the other travel concerns such as transport and insurance that go along with your holiday plans, and must be able to field all your queries ranging from weather to attire to currency etc. All this occurs after a lengthy fact finding discussion to determine your likes, dislikes, budget and other practical limiting concerns. Then he or
she spends time and effort planning your vacation which in most cases is not one phone call or email but many – especially on custom itineraries or cruises – to arrange flights or train journeys, to arrange hotels, taxis or buses, travel insurance and perhaps sailing times. And all these arrangements and timings must work seamlessly. Then there is ensuring your deposits and installments are in place and on time. And rejuggling your schedule when the airline issues minor or major changes 4 or 5 times depending on how far out you are booked from your date of travel. And heaven forbid there are last minute or enroute snags in visas, missed connections, illnesses, etc. for which you may need advice.
So how does the TP know what to recommend for you? He or she attends workshops, seminars, on line seminars, takes courses, visits ships and resorts (called inspections), asks returning clients about their experiences, and visits these places personally. That’s where Myth #2 comes in.
Many people believe a travel professional’s life is glamorous – all those stays at fancy resorts, the ocean cruises to exotic places, the river cruises and the tours to bucket list destinations. These could be considered perks of the job but actually these trips are research, they are education, they are to ensure your satisfaction with travel advice given. The travels are fun but they are serious learning experiences too. There is nothing like firsthand knowledge. Sometimes the travel professional is escorting a group or accompanying a destination wedding on site to ensure nothing goes wrong for the wedding party. These trips are great responsibilities to assume. And all the while the travel professional is physically away from his or her place of work, as long as there is an internet or phone connection, he or she is still on the job. And guess what? These trips are not free. A travel professional has to pay the same as you do – minus a small discount usually equivalent to their commission. That leads us to Myth #3.
Travel professionals are paid by the vendors of travel, not you, though some charge a minor administrative fee. The commissions earned are
not exorbitant by any means, and some minor vendors booked to ensure your trip runs smoothly may not pay commissions at all. Out of these funds, the TP must pay for the monthly phone bill, the internet, office supplies and perhaps help, liability insurance, professional fees, advertising, their fact finding trips, and occupancy costs, if operating from an office. It’s a business with business costs, and margins are slim.
So why do travel professionals still exist? Because they purposefully acquire firsthand knowledge and experience to provide a very valuable service with capable, expert, reliable and personal dedication to ensure the short time you get to spend on vacations each year is going to be everything you could hope for and more. And of course, on their side, because they love to travel, travel professionals are rewarded by having others share their joy of travel too.
Article written by D MacIntyre of compassmedia.us, and former “TP”. Images courtesy of pixabay.com and bigstock.com.