Travel advisors are not only still around, but they’re actually thriving. In this age of information overload on the internet, people need counsel from experts more than ever. But many people think travel advisors are a vanishing breed – or don’t understand why anyone would use one.
Here are eight travel advisor myths debunked.
Travel Advisor Myth 1: No one uses advisors anymore.
Actually, according to the American Society of Travel Agents, advisors sell 51% of airline tickets, 87% of cruises, 81% of tours and packages, 45% of car rentals and 47% of hotels.
The New York Times reports that advisor bookings account for one-third of the $284 billion U.S. travel market. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that employment of travel advisors will grow by 10% from 2010 to 2020. Since there are more than 100,000 travel advisors in the U.S., that’s a sizable increase.
Travel Advisor Myth 2: I can book the same trip on my own.
Yes, you can book a similar trip. But advisors can save you hours of time you’d spend on research and price comparisons. According to emarketer, consumers visit 21 sites in nine sessions before making a travel booking.
Advisors can also plan experiences you never knew existed, get you perks, make complicated arrangements and help when things go wrong. “If they book it themselves, they’re just a credit card number” to a travel supplier, Virtuoso travel advisor Anne Scully told USA TODAY. “I make a point of knowing the general manager of the hotel where they might be staying and I usually call the GM the night before one of my clients arrives and see if they might be upgraded. If they book with a good agent, they’re known on arrival.”
The knowledge and experience advisors have give them a serious advantage in trip planning. In particular, Scully said advisors can do two things better than just about anyone else: secure a hotel reservation when the hotel website or front desk says that it’s fully booked, and get clients on another flight quickly when the original was canceled or delayed.
Travel agents can do far more than just flight or hotel bookings. For example, they can arrange car service, personalized tours, VIP activities and travel insurance. They’re in the know about great restaurants (and how to get reservations), the must-see sights in any destination and even packing tips.
Travel Advisor Myth 3: I can get better prices online.
“You could be correct,” Scully told USA TODAY. “But it’s not what you pay walking in the door, it’s what you pay when you leave.”
She’s talking about the upgrades that advisors get for clients through relationships with hotels, cruise lines and tour operators. Through networks like Virtuoso, professional travel advisors build connections with suppliers. Because Virtuoso’s 8,900 advisors book $12.5 billion in sales each year, they have a lot of clout. Travel suppliers work to keep their loyalty and business by offering extra benefits to their clients. The pricing, packages and perks advisors can obtain aren’t usually available to the public.
Those benefits could be everything from a hotel room upgrade or dining or spa credit to a complimentary shore excursion on a luxury cruise line. And Scully said that even if clients find a good price on their own, she can usually secure added value from the supplier.
It also might look like a travel advisor is recommending a more expensive trip than online prices. But the advisor has likely found a more direct itinerary with fewer flights, better times and shorter layovers.
Travel Advisor Myth 4: Advisors send you to hotels or cruise lines that pay them higher commissions.
Said Scully, “We wouldn’t keep our clients if we did that.” She plays what she calls “The Match Game,” learning what a client wants and only booking travel that fits their personal tastes.
“I could be getting a huge commission from some cruise line but if the client isn’t a fit, it doesn’t make sense,” she said. “It’s all about finding the perfect match.”
Travel Advisor Myth 5: It’s expensive to use an advisor
The added value you get from working with an advisor will typically offset any fees. Travel advisors earn commissions from suppliers, but many professional advisors also charge fees because of the hours they spend planning trips.
Putting together a complex vacation could take several weeks and hundreds of emails and phone calls. Charging a fee helps compensate the advisor for all that time and effort. Some agencies discount or drop the fee once a trip is booked. Also, many online booking sites also charge fees.
Travel Advisor Myth 6: All advisors are the same.
“Absolutely not,” Scully said. “It’s like picking a lawyer, doctor or dentist. They need to be right for you and certified by the right organizations. I think people have to realize we are counselors and concierges and lifestyle planners. People should choose a travel planner the way they choose a financial planner.”
Every travel agent has a different background and specialties. To pick one that’s right for you, consider:
- Asking around. Do friends and family have an advisor they like?
- Checking memberships and certifications. Is the advisor part of Virtuoso? What kind of training has the advisor taken? Is the advisor certified by the Travel Institute or the Cruise Lines International Association?
- Chatting with the advisor. Do they listen to what you want and answer your questions? Look for an advisor that wants to build a long-term relationship with you.
- Asking about fees. Good advisors will tell you up front about their fee policies.
- Finding out an agency’s record. The American Society of Travel Agents can tell you if a member agency has had a complaint against it in the past six months.
Looking for an advisor? On virtuoso.com, you can take a quick quiz that will offer you advisors that match your needs best.
Travel Advisor Myth 7: The internet is replacing the need for advisors.
The internet is a great resource, but it’s no substitute for the expertise, knowledge, counsel and service of a travel advisor. In fact, people who have tried doing it themselves online are coming back to advisors. Forrester reports that customer satisfaction with online travel agencies dropped 11% between 2007 and 2010, and online loyalty has dropped 33%.
Travel Advisor Myth 8: Travelers want to do their own planning and working with an advisor takes away that fun.
Good advisors consider themselves planning partners with their clients. They encourage clients to do their own research and planning, then work with them to put the entire trip together. Collaboration with an advisor actually eliminates the stress of the arrangements and lets you focus on the joy of the vacation. Because your advisor is available 24/7 before, during, and after your travels, you’ll have peace of mind throughout the process.
Now that those myths have been debunked, what are the facts about travel advisors? Watch this video to discover 20 truths about Virtuoso travel advisors.