There was a recent article on CNN where a women listed all the various ills she experienced in her vacation because of a "bad travel agent". The airplane ticket she bought was not upgradeable or refundable. The hotel would not upgrade her to a better room. Her car did not have unlimited mileage. She said the travel agent had done all these things in order to earn a bigger commission. And the list went on …
My first reaction as a traveler is that she had a good right to be angry and upset that her vacation was not fantastic. My first reaction as a travel agent was – hold the fort – did she ASK for any of those items when she met with the travel agent?
We are not mind readers. We do are best to screen our clients to find out likes, dislikes and preferences. However, the client DOES pay a large part in the process.
To understand how best to utilize a travel agent, you should understand how a travel agency operates.
In "the good old days", travel agents receive commissions from airlines, hotels, cars and resorts for travel purchased on behalf of a client. With the advent of the internet, these commission checks began disappearing. Regular airfare (without hotels or car rentals) is generally not commissionable. That means when the travel agent does the research for your best fare, s (he) is not going to receive any money for the time and effort spent on your behalf. Booking airline tickets alone is actually a money losing proposition for the travel agent. However, many good agents will continue to book these flights as a gesture of goodwill in hopes that you will bring them your other travel.
Your budget determines the type of airfare and accommodations you will receive. If you are on a tight budget, you will likely end up with non refundable / non changeable plane tickets and hotel rooms that will not allow you to upgrade. Make sure to discuss your budget options and the pros and cons associated with your airfare, car and hotel before you make a purchase. Keep in mind that your travel agent is likely to receive a higher commission on the refundable / upgradeable fares so buying non refundable / non changeable tickets really does not benefit the travel agent.
If you want to use airline or hotel points for upgrades, make sure and tell your agent up front. That way s (he) can find you the best upgradeable bargain.
Your travel agent can be an invaluable asset when planning your next trip or vacation. You, as the consumer, do have certain responsibilities to volunteer information if not directly asked.
Questions to ask your agent.
1. Do you charge any research or other fees?
2. Will you work with me if there are any issues?
3. Do you work with any companies that allow me to pay out my vacation?
4. Is there a 24/7 phone number in case of critical issues?
Questions your agent should ask you
1. What areas of travel interest you?
2. What kind of budget do you have?
3. What types of travel do you like – air, cruise, all inclusive etc?
4. Do you have airline seating preferences?
5. Smoking or non smoking hotel rooms (if applicable)?
6. What level of service do you expect – budget, 5 star etc?
7. Ask about visas and passports for international travel.
Fantastic vacations start with detailed planning. So, get together with your travel agent and start planning your next dream trip.