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When you are planning a vacation, there are so many details to take care of, from the hotel, flight and car reservations, to special meals, event tickets and more. Of course, if you've never been to the destination you want to see, it's hard to know what the best options are. The internet can help you, of course, but why is it better to plan your trip with a travel agent?
Alex Kutin with Travel Leaders explains how travel agents help their clients. Based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, Kutin had a client who was going on a family trip to Jamaica and lost her passport during the layover in Atlanta. "We helped get her a new one in under four hours so she would not miss her vacation," said Kutin. "She had been told it would take four days to get her a new passport."
Kutin contacted the Senator's office in town, but the client's flight had taken off and her family went without her. "She went to downtown Atlanta where they handed her a new passport (and we) changed her flight without additional charge," said Kutin.
R. D. Gavel, CTC, an affiliate of Travel Experts, says that he has his elevator speech about being a travel agent down to five words: Your trip is my trip.
"Those words describe everything I'm about; my process, my practice, my philosophy," said Gavel. "They reflect my commitment to the success of the trip, the worry, the lost sleep, the investment in time and care to help ensure it's the best experience possible. They also define precisely why I feel everyone should use a travel advisor."
According to an AAA survey, 85 percent of Americans find value in working with a travel agent, citing that travel agents are a "knowledgeable resource, providing a great vacation experience" (26 percent), "they know the best deals, saving money," (23 percent), "they make reservations and bookings, saving time" (20 percent), and "they can help if something goes wrong, giving peace of mind" (16 percent).
READ MORE: A Day in The Life of A Travel Agent
"Everyone should use a travel agent for quick and personal service," said Justin Wolfson, independent travel consultant at Chubit Travel in Randolph, New Jersey. "For my clients, I am available 24/7 via email, phone, text and even Facebook! Our relationships with suppliers are far better than your relationship with an online OTA. If there is a problem, travel agents can get it fixed quickly."
Eileen Entin, of Diamond Cruise and Travel, agrees that veteran travel agents offer a wealth of knowledge and experience to evaluate deals, locations, and itineraries and recommend the ideal vacation for each client at the lowest possible price. "After more than 150 cruises, I've accumulated a level of expertise that just isn't available anywhere else," she said. "I know when someone is getting a great deal and when someone is getting a raw deal that seems great on the surface."
When looking for the trip of a lifetime, travel agents can also tell what their clients really want. "There is something to be said for body language and making that personal connection," said Sarah Kline, president, Time for Travel, Ltd., Davidsonville, Maryland. "A computer can't react to her when her eyes light up showing them that honeymoon suite or the look of relief they give each other when we've found the perfect resort for the wedding."
In addition, travel agents can also open up experiences and opportunities that clients might not have access to or even thought of. "A good travel advisor not only helps with convenience and stress reduction, they also open up access to amazing experiences, such as a private cooking class with a well-known chef or private access to a museum after hours," said Eric Grayson, Discover 7 Travel.
Travel agents can also save travelers a tremendous amount of time when it comes to research. "Agents also have access to proprietary and comprehensive booking tools, like VAX VacationAccess, so they can build specialized vacations that are tailored to their clients' needs, interests and budgets," said Lynn Clark, vice president of engagement at Trisept Solutions." "Also, many agents are part of larger travel consortia groups that leverage their members' collective buying power to deliver special rates and perks that agents can then pass onto their clients."
READ MORE: Travel Agents Reveal the Best Ways to Save
"You can't VIP yourself, but your advisor can do that on your behalf, and the travel experience is greatly enhanced," said Terrie Hansen, senior vice president - marketing at Virtuoso.
Many destinations also like to work directly with travel agents. "It is the expertise that an agent brings to the table, the knowledge they have of our property and Tulum as a whole, and ability to help create the exact vacation that their client is looking for, that provides an unspoken value for travelers," says Dawn Mackinnon, sales director of Kore Tulum.
The agent value can come at a time when you absolutely need it. Rey Alton, Travel Leaders, Houston, Texas, had clients who missed the date of their final payment for a Mediterranean cruise. "When the Syrian refugee crisis happened, the client felt uneasy about traveling to the Mediterranean, so they switched to a Panama Canal trip. We moved their money from the Mediterranean to the Panama cruise with no penalty."
However, the client thought the final payment was still the same as it was for the other cruise and the retired couple did not have the funds any earlier. "Instead of them losing the $900 they had already paid, I switched their cruise to April, 2017 to the Panama Canal with no extra fees."
The clients came in with the rest of the money for this year's cruise and Alton was, once again, able to switch it back. "This is the biggest thing we do as advisers; we are fixers," he says. "If they had booked this on their own, they would've lost their deposit and would not have gone on the trip at all."
Lisa Iannucci has written many travel articles for national magazines and newspapers. Over the years, her travel articles have...
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