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Reports from the field and research studies now suggest that Millennials, more than any other generation, are relying on travel agents when booking their getaways rather than online booking engines like Booking.com, Priceline, etc.
MMGY Travel Intelligence's annual study, the 2019-2020 Portrait of American Travelers, supports the observations of professionals like Kelly Bergin, President of Oasis Travel Network, who shared with us a few of her insights into the market phenomenon. It reported that 24 percent of Millennial travelers said they plan to use an agent when planning at least one vacation over the next two years, whereas only 15 percent of Gen-Xers and 16 percent of Boomers surveyed said the same.
It may seem counterintuitive that this age group is seeking out human interaction for assistance in planning out their trips-even more so than even Baby Boomers, for whom surfing the Internet does not come quite as naturally. In speaking with TravelPulse, Bergin ventured to speculate upon some specific reasons that might explain why Millennials find working with a travel advisor preferable to hopping online.
One reason might be that, at this point in their lives, Millennials are still working full-time, raising children, etc., whereas many Baby Boomers are now retired and therefore have the time to invest in researching and weighing the options to be found through the Internet search engines.
Bergin posited, "I think that a lot of Boomers aren't as tech-savvy and they tend to take the Internet at face value. Millennials grew up with the internet, and they know what's shown there isn't always exactly as it appears to be. In that regard, they're more aware of the need to question and confirm the details of potential travel deals than their predecessors. "They want validation of what they're seeing online," Bergin summarized.
And, that means speaking with an actual person who's versed in the ins-and-outs of the industry and its latest offerings. Then, there's the fact that travel agencies have established relationships with suppliers and have access to resources, special pricing and packages that aren't directly available to the public.
"Travel advisors provide an element of personalization that can't be offered via an online travel service," said Bergin. "As travel advisors, we have the experience and ability to carefully review options and personally build package offers that maximize value while saving money," she explained. Especially when it comes to coordinating and booking group travel, it's easiest and most efficiently done through an agent, who can also save clients a ton of money in the process.
When navigating the myriad of booking sites online, there's also unwelcome pressure to purchase immediately, thanks to constantly shifting online prices which fluctuate frequently according to changing supply and demand. The feelings of uncertainty and potential frustration that can accompany that process can also be avoided by enlisting the aid of a professional.
"Booking through a travel advisor offers price stability. We can place holds on tickets or packages to preserve pricing for our clients. Booking sites can't," explained Bergin. "So, if you need some time to think about what you're buying or speak with others in your group about your options, you won't feel the pressure of having to buy immediately or risk losing out on the deal. Professional travel advisors can often hold a reservation for 24 hours, or even as long as a week, while clients come to a decision," said Bergin.
Many agencies also hold spaces with suppliers at better rates than might currently be advertised out in the market. Particularly with cruise lines, Bergin explained, when a new season's itineraries are first released, "We have the ability to hold group space on sailings, which then lock in at those cabin prices. So, say, a year later, when someone's looking for that particular sailing on that ship and rates have gone up, we can offer it to our clients at the lower price."
Perhaps it comes down to an inherent skepticism about the validity of what's being presented online, or a lack of time and energy needed to sufficiently coordinate all the details of a trip with friends or family, that leads Millennials to turn to travel advisors as opposed to trusting the intricacies of their upcoming travel plans to technology.
Or, perhaps, as a consumer, it's simply the confidence that comes with being able to entrust the task to an expert, who'll bear in mind your unique needs, concerns and best interest while working diligently on your behalf.
Laurie Baratti is a San Diego-based journalist whose work has previously appeared in publications like TravelAge West, SPACE,...
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