Not so much now but for several years after the internet burst onto the scene, I would get a very predictable reaction whenever I would mention to people that I was in the travel business. They would muster their most sympathetic look and say, “Gosh, that has to be really hard, what with the internet and all.” What they didn’t say but were obviously thinking was, “Thank God I am not in a business that is going the way of the dinosaur.”
But thankfully the intervening years have shown that we are not extinct dinosaurs but extant crocodiles. You see, crocodiles also date back to prehistoric times but unlike their lumbering, land-based neighbors, crocs have kept trucking right along. They were able to adapt to an ever-changing environment and they still thrive in many parts of the world today.
So why have travel agencies not only survived but by most measures enjoyed a renaissance in recent years? Before I offer three answers to that question, here is some journalistic evidence for their revival as well as unsolicited appreciation for the work travel agents do.
Forbes Magazine article by Larry Olmsted – Hurricane Sandy’s Lesson to Travelers: Use A Travel Agent
The New York Times article by Michelle Higgins – Are Travel Agents Back?
US News article by Daniel Bortz – Why It Pays to Book with a Travel Agent
I know with the advent of the internet you can book a trip without using a travel agent but why in the world would you? Every good travel agency and their stable of expert agents consistently provide three things you will never get from the web.
Before you go, we offer you RELIABLE ADVICE.
In the olden days, before Google was a noun, much less a verb, our role as travel agents was quite different. Information was hard to come by and thus we were viewed as mystical high priests, the keepers of the sacred books, the all-knowing ones. People would come into our offices with confused looks on their faces and we would perform secret travel incantations.
Now, of course, a deluge of information is just a few keystrokes away. Strangely, customers still stumble into our offices with a dazed look but for a totally different reason. Now the dilemma for the traveler is not too little information but an avalanche of confusing and often conflicting information.
Where we used to just deliver reliable information, we now curate, organize, evaluate and interpret it. We can do this because we travel extensively, one of the key reasons we got into this industry. We know what the beach at that resort you are thinking about is really like because we had our toes in it last month. We know which hotels are under renovation and which cruise line has the best cuisine. Of course none of us has been everywhere but we belong to networks inside and outside our own companies where we can source great experiential information. Plus, we are constantly being updated by our suppliers.
By the time we dispense any travel moonshine, it has been carefully distilled.
Should things go wrong during your trip, we provide ROBUST ASSISTANCE.
I often read media travel experts conceding that for complex cruise or tour packages using a travel agency makes sense but for routine flights or simple hotel bookings, you should go online. Like most conventional wisdom, this is utter rubbish. One of the compelling reasons to use a travel agent is to buy a little back-pocket insurance policy in case things go awry. And, if you have taken more than a couple of trips in your life, you don’t need me tell you that things can go all pear-shaped in a hurry.
Just read Larry Olmsted’s article mentioned above. Wicked weather or routine mechanical delays can have you crying at a ticket counter like a lost child at the mall. You can either be that person standing in a long line praying all the options are not gone by the time you reach the front of the queue or you can be that relaxed traveler standing to the side, sipping a latte and talking calmly to his or her travel agent.
Should unresolved issues linger after your trip, we supply RELENTLESS ADVOCACY.
If you are in a bar brawl, who would you rather have in your corner: Mike Tyson or PeeWee Herman? Sometimes when things go badly there are financial knots to untangle. You may well still be angry, defensive and vindictive. You know, sort of like a divorce. What you need is a trusted advocate.
We know who to talk to and more importantly, how to talk to them. We have two big advantages over you in this regard. We are not emotionally vested because it wasn’t us who was denied boarding at the cruise ship because we forgot our passport. Secondly, this is not our first rodeo with these sorts of problems or with the particular cruise line or tour company. We have a long-standing relationship to call upon. We have significant production with that supplier to bolster our position. We don’t promise the perfect outcome but we usually manage the best possible outcome given the circumstances.
So next time you travel just remember, don’t dial a dinosaur, call a croc!