Where Do Travel Agents Go For Travel Advice?
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Consumers turn to travel agents for their expertise, but who do travel agents turn to when they need some expert help? After all, they can’t visit all destinations and be at the grand opening of every new accommodation and attraction.
Some agents turn to overseas partners for their expertise. “If we haven’t visited the destination ourselves, we generally work with overseas partners or DMCs (Destination Management Companies) who have first-hand experience of the destination,” said Nick Salmen at Remarkable Journeys in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “If we need additional information on a destination or a hotel, we use a wide-array of resources such as Frommer’s, Rick Steves, TripAdvisor, Travel & Leisure, and Condé Nast.”
Virtuoso’s travel advisors frequently turn to their network of what they call On-Sites, which are in-destination companies with deep knowledge about the types of experiences that travelers want to have in their locales. “We have more than 150 On-Sites around the world, and they can provide insider experiences, including recording your own song at Abbey Road Studios in London, traveling by camel to a private romantic dinner in the middle of the Dubai desert, and seeing Australian wildlife on a walk escorted by Charles Darwin’s great-great-grandson,” said Betsy Goldberg, senior manager of public relations of Virtuoso.
Some agents turn to their higher-ups. “I trust Ignacio Maza, Signature's executive vice president, first,” said Alex Sharpe, President & CEO of Signature Travel Network. “He has been in the travel industry for over 30 years and has visited over 100 countries and territories on all seven continents.”
Some agents turn to other travel websites for additional research and reviews. “We do look at TripAdvisor,” said Jill Petrowsky, owner of Cruise Planners. “Even though it can be all over the place, it gives you the pros and cons of each property based on the traveler, and that is what I count on.”
FlyerTalk is the site of choice for Eric Grayson of Discover7 Travel. “I use FlyerTalk a lot,” he said. “It's a great tool for looking up thoughts and opinions on luxury hotels. If you're an avid user, you'll get to know other contributors’ tastes and preferences. Over time, you realize that you really trust some of them. Offline, we've built a network of local partners around the globe. I rely on them for feedback on properties that I haven't had a chance to visit, as well as must-see locations or restaurants to try.”
Petrowsky said that she also relies on Cruise Planners/American Express. “There are thousands of agents in the organization and the company has an outstanding reputation,” she said. “It is great for travel agents to be able to work with eachother and reach out if one specializes in a particular area that another might not.”
When she is planning travel for herself, agent Alissa Alvarado of Providence Worldwide Travel Corp., says that she doesn’t have to go far to find someone trusts. “Both my mother-in-law Maria and my good friend and fellow travel agent Karina have traveled extensively and have similar interests, but they differ in their budgets.”
For money saving tips, Alvarado relies on her mother-in-law. “She is truly a genius at getting the best bang for your buck,” she said. “Maria told me about American Airlines’ online shopping referral website, which is like an Ebates for AA miles, and she also taught me to sign up for newsletters from airlines, hotels, etc., and scour official tourism websites for my destinations to find deals. Now I have an email address dedicated to receiving these newsletters.”
Every industry professional turns to someone more experienced than they are for expert opinions, which only means that they care about providing their clients with the utmost service.
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