But should they be?
The last several years has seen a wave of new agents enter the industry. From kids fresh out of school, hungry to see the world to those looking to make a mid-life career change it seems being a travel agent is the new cool trendy job to have. Interestingly, there is no formal license required to be a travel agent in the US. With a click of a button you can order business cards at VistaPrint, pick a cool name and you’re in business! Is it just me or is that a little scary? I am on various forums and social media groups where I see posts regularly from new “agents” working on client quotes that literally have zero idea what they are doing. Questions like – who should I call now? how do I book this? They want the beach, where should I send them? How do I make money? And the horror stories! “I meant to book their flight to Paris, France not Paris, Texas! Now what do I do?” … oops. Others sign up with a company for a fee to get an affiliate link and a third party travel website to promote to their family and friends in the hopes that they’ll earn a commission. Sorry, this does not make you a travel agent and consumers beware of anyone part of a Paycation or similar MLM group.
Let me stress how critical it is to select an experienced travel agent to assist you with your travel plans. Yes, many in this new wave of agents are no doubt smart, tech savvy and likely come from another professional background where they excelled. Maybe they are even well traveled and pride themselves on having planned their own trips for the past X number of years. There is so much behind the scenes work that a new person just doesn’t even realize they are not doing because they haven’t been taught. I am a firm believer in not only gaining an organized education (there are numerous travel agent and destination courses available online or from local colleges) but also first hand experience and guidance from a mentor. It takes years to build up a successful business and gain the knowledge needed to confidently and competently coordinate complicated travel arrangements. So before you book your next trip – find out more about that agent. How long have they been in business? Have they been to the destination you are interested in or booked it in the past? Are they members of any associations or local chambers, registered with their state as an LLC or other corporate entity? Is the sum of their travel knowledge based on TripAdvisor.com reviews and the latest issue of Conde Nast?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with working with a part time travel agent or someone that works from home. It’s the American dream right? Just make sure they have the experience, knowledge and tools to ensure you have a smooth, hassle free vacation experience. It’s easy enough to go to expedia, travelocity etc. and with a few clicks book a trip anywhere in the world. The point of working with a travel agent is to benefit from their experience and knowledge. With my 20+ years of experience, I know how to find you the absolute best value for your vacation dollar so I can not only save you time and money but enhance your vacation experience. Our contacts at the destination are eagerly waiting to welcome you with a smile and more than likely a special amenity. We’ve been there, done that and on the off chance we haven’t – we’ve booked it.
But doesn’t it cost more to work with a travel agent? Generally, No! In fact just today I worked up a quote for a family to go to Jamaica. I had access to an exclusive sale that Expedia didn’t. This resulted in a savings of over $2400 for the family!
So if you’re thinking of taking a trip, don’t get click happy and book the first thing you see or rely on information from your Great Aunt Edna who just decided to be a Travel Agent on Friday. Talk to a professional travel agent. Call me or send me an email personally.