Everything you need to know about booking a holiday with a travel agent or travel advisor, from how much it costs to the services and benefits you can expect to enjoy.
Backpackers and budget travellers are well aware of the hard work that goes into booking a travel experience. From the research and planning stage to completing and managing bookings, overseeing flights, cruises, accommodation, transfers, tours, reservations and experiences while on the go can be a somewhat stressful experience that doesn’t always pan out exactly as planned. This is where the true value of engaging a travel agent or travel advisor becomes obvious. These travel professionals bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role, and are experts in managing every aspect of travel for their clients. We spoke to Teniesha Gill, business leader in Geelong for Travel Associates, an award-winning Australian travel agency, to get her insight on the topic.
What is a travel agent, or travel advisor?
Generally speaking, a travel agent works with hotels, airlines, cruise lines, tour operators and other similar vendors to book and organise a holiday or travel experience for a paying client. Travel agents can manage bookings for individuals, couples, families, groups and businesses.
A travel advisor is the evolved version of a travel agent. While travel advisors do all the things previously mentioned, they also bring a wealth of industry knowledge and personal experience to their role and specialise in creating premium, personalised itineraries that require significantly more time, research and organisation to deliver.
What does a travel agent do?
“As with all professional services, you get what you pay for with a travel agent or travel advisor. Once the decision is made on where and when to travel, a travel advisor will book and manage every single detail, from flights to hotels, experiences, and cruises to day tours, dinner bookings, kids’ clubs if needed, VIP transfers and even visas, if this is a requirement for travel,” says Teniesha. “They’ll create those special extra touches that clients may not expect, but really add the ‘wow’ factor to the travel experience. If something should go wrong during the trip, a travel advisor is the first person that will be notified, and they will solve the problem asap.”
What is the most common misconception about travel agents?
“That all travel agents are equal. They are not, and in luxury travel high-touch end-to-end service is the only solution,” says Teniesha “A travel advisor provides clients with a very high level of expertise gained through years of experience and first-hand knowledge, plus a lot of additional training and development which travel advisors undertake to keep up to speed on all of the changes in properties, experiences, aircraft, ships, and more.”
How much does a travel agent or travel advisor cost?
While some entry-level travel agents may not charge a fee for their services, they may get a commission for booking a client on a particular line, brand or business. “The best travel advisors generally charge a nominal fee to manage their client bookings, allowing them to give the time and attention the client deserves. Due to the professional knowledge and high-touch service, this is worth the nominal fee. The client is assured of the right result, and the right level of support, professionalism and expertise,” says Teniesha.
Teniesha adds, “It can often be the case that, if a package looks too good to be true it generally is, and comes with restrictions. This may not represent value to the client if they want to make changes as these usually come at an additional cost.”
What are the benefits of booking with a travel agent?
Teniesha says the benefits of booking with a travel agent or travel advisor greatly come down to industry expertise and insights. Crafting a well-curated itinerary requires knowledge of destinations, experience and travel requirements, the best places to travel and when, on which ship or aircraft and in what seat or cabin, and an experienced travel advisor can fulfil this requirement.
“Plus, good travel advisors have connections established and nurtured over many years to ensure they know who to contact when a client needs something, be it extra special touches for a milestone celebration, support in a crisis, an alteration to a booking – any detail that needs to be taken care of,” says Teniesha.
“A client that books their own trip may do so online, only to find there isn’t anyone available to provide support when they need it, or make changes to bookings if flights are delayed, or in a crisis, and online travel agents certainly can’t deliver memorable moments throughout the trip. It can be very transactional and quite ‘basic’ and packaged, so there’s no opportunity to tweak itineraries for personal choices.”
Teniesha explains, “If a client books everything themselves, they then become the person who may need to wait on the phone for several hours to try and change bookings, and re-book flights in case of emergency, and clients generally don’t have the deep connections that professional travel agents will have with the right people in the right places to help.”
Five reasons to book with a premium travel agent or travel advisor:
- The right advisor will match their client to the right travel supplier as they understand what the client wants, their likes and dislikes. They don’t just ‘book’ the client.
- An experienced advisor has connections in the industry that are sought after and rare. If a client wants a private dinner in a castle in Austria, with a member of the Austrian royal family, the right advisor will have the connections to make this happen.
- A fantastic travel advisor will know the right cabin to book a client into when they cruise a certain cruise line: the cabin with the best view of an iconic landmark on arrival in port, or the best view on departure.
- Travel advisors specialise in complex itineraries and split bookings to ensure they get the client where they need to go.
- In an emergency or crisis, a trusted advisor will stop at nothing to get a client home. It’s their job to advocate on the client’s behalf, which no online booking can match.
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