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Do You Still Use A Travel Agency?

August 13, 2009 at 10:35 AM | by | Comments (26)

It's a question that's been tossed about in the travel industry for years now, ever since websites like Priceline and Expedia started eating the lion's share of business, and now we ask it again: Do you still use a travel agency?

We bet the British couple who flew to the wrong Sydney wishes they hadn't; even though they used a travel agency to book their dream summer vacation to Sydney, Australia, instead they ended up on flights taking them to the sleepy town of Sydney, Canada.

Reading the comments from that BBC articles, it looks like this isn't an isolated problem; another person remarked that their recent travel agency booking had them on a flight to the island of Antigua, rather than their intended destination of Antigua, Guatemala. Actually, we recommend reading all of the similarly hilarious comments on that story.

Bumbling travel agents aside, we ask if you still head to the local strip mall and pick up glossy cruise brochures and stare at the cardboard Hawaii Tourism mobiles hanging from the ceiling. Or has all of your attention been turned to the internet with websites like Travelzoo's Top 20 Travel Deals and the Kayak Buzz? The ability even exists to book multi-leg flights and complex expedition vacations online.

So, intrepid travelers, do you still use a travel agency? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Related Stories:
· Britons Fly to Wrong 'Sydney' [BBC]
· All Open Threads [Jaunted]

[Photo: Chris Campbell]

Comments (26)

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Travel Agencies? Yes

I've used an agency on a few trips, both of which when I wanted suggestions on where to go and to possibly get a good deal. I would use them more often if I traveled more extensively.

nooo, never have

I've never used a travel agent. i don't even think my family ever did either when i was growing up. hmmm...maybe once. I know they are helpful in putting together packages and I know people who use them because it's easy and they dont have to think about it. But i like control over planning my trip. And I dont want to have to pay any extra fees.

Travel agents alive and well!

Very interested to see more comments on the question. Clients increasingly tell me that they are overwhelmed with info online, and have no way to evaluate it. They are grateful to find someone who can help them - and are glad to pay for the expertise. Sally Watkins, CTC Century Travel, Austin, TX www.sallywatkins.com

People still use travel agents?

I can understand using them for business travel, but the thought of going to an agent in today's fast-paced modern information superhighway web 2.0 blogosphere seems a little ridiculous. I'm with Juliana - I'm the master of my own domain (of trips.)

Yes...Kinda

Our family has a 'World Elite' MasterCard which enables us to take advantage of exclusive Virtuoso amenities. To do this, we have to use a Virtuoso agent. We normally get 10-20% off the rack rate, get a guaranteed upgrade, free breakfast, and an exclusive amenity (like $100 food credit or spa credit)...so yes, but only for hotels.

Nah

Last time I used a travel agent was for a trip to Dublin in 2001. Since then it has been all on my own and I prefer it that way. I do not like others in control of my travel. Plus I wind up finding cheaper fares and hotels when I look online. I had a trip to Poland in June and when we went to book airfare in January for it, my wife insisted that we use a friend's travel agent. The woman quoted us $1200 per ticket on LOT Polish airlines. I found the same days and airports, but with Aer Lingus, for only $700 per ticket. A wise cartoon soldier once said, "knowing is half the battle."

NO

We let a family member make our arrangements because she is computer savvy.

Never again!

I have done a lot of travelling in the past 5 years and I've been forced to use a travel agent just twice - once here in Australia, the other in the UK. Both times were a nightmare! The Oz agent just stuffed things up but the UK agent blatantly lied to me about the holiday to Spain they'd booked me on. I walked into the well-known high street shop with a very specific type of relaxing/luxury holiday in mind. I was very clear in asking for what I wanted - yet they'd booked me into what can best be described as a run down retirement home! I was the youngest guest by about 40 years, all the food was "mushy" to suit their normal clientele and the "entertainment" in the hotel on the one night I stayed there was a ventriloquist act straight from Brighton pier circa 1952! They knew damn well what they were doing when they took the booking - which wasn't cheep by the way - I was so angry! I paid for an extra air-fair to return back to UK after just 24 hours in the nursing home - I couldn't take any more of it! No apology, no refund and too many hoops to jump though to make a formal complaint in the two weeks I had left in the UK. I now book all flights and hotels online. Never again!

Cell phone Roaming.

Hi, I have used this service to travel to my grandparents shtettle in Belarus, saved some money.. http://www.onesimcard.com/?57791

I used an agency once.

Normally we do all our own trip work, but when we went to Egypt and Jordan we went with an agency.  Since it was a place we'd never been, and didn't speak or read the language, I felt it would be better to have someone else arrange it.  

The agency, Travel In Style, helped us plan each day, made sure we were doing what we wanted to do, and not doing anything we didn't.  Plus I was able to do it all thru email and on their website. Worth every cent. I'd feel more confidant going back with my own planning now that I know what to expect.


Me too. I used and agency once

Now with internet its almost ridiculous to usea an agency, so many services and every times its getting easier to get cheap flights and excellent offers on the web, The last time I used it, http://www.casablancabyb.com/ had direct contact with the hotel and special prices, for a luxurious and relaxing times in cartageina!!

They're good for visa processing

The only time I use agents is when I'm living in a different country and want to travel some place where visas are required. It costs an extra $10 or so, but travel agents make the process less painful than figuring out consulate hours, meeting those hours and hanging around to get a visa processed.

Come on

It's really ignorant to say that one or the other is the best way to go. Sometimes it's cheaper to use an agent depending on your trips. I definitely don't think that sites like expedia are in ANY way cheaper unless you use their "featured" deals. The best way to find the best deal is to do your own research AND get quotes from agents. Some agents really get deals that you couldn't get over the internet and even with the fee you still make out.

Wrong example

you base much of this article on examples from a BBC article. In fact only ONE of the cases in there was a problem caused by a travel agent as you seem to be defining it - namely a high street agency. The Sydney cock-up was caused by the traveller himself booking on an online travel agent website - seems to contradict your starting point.

not a local one, but

we used a travel agency that is based in NYC and specializes in Europe and Eastern Europe for a couple trips to Prague and Budapest. That was helpful both times to be able to actually talk with someone on the phone about the hotel, etc.. Also a real person that took care of the changes. We had a problem with Expedia last year when we went to Amsterdam. Don't think I will book with them again.. They fucked up several things and it took a LOT for me to fix it.

We don't use them anymore

There used to be a time when I was younger where my mom would always use a travel agent. It was kind of nice to be able to look at all the pictures of places and pick out destinations. But now, it's just too easy to use the web to find places and get email updates of gret specials.

World Wide Web is the new Travel Agent

With EVERYTHING being on the internet I don't see the point in using travel agencies anymore. With a simple search you can find everyting you need to prepare for a trip from begining to end and save a lot of money. With the holidays ahead I'm preparing my trips. I went to the site below to get some cash to put towards the expensive traveling season. Ultimately its worth it... http://www.mediancs.com/rd_p?p=192462&t=9534&a=25081-scash&gift=25081

A Travel What?

What's that? It's been at least 10 years since I've even talked to a travel agent.

Great Travel Agents Are More Invaluable Than Ever

You can't bash an entire industry of experts on 2 unfortunate instances. One where the agent bumbled, and the other in the BBC article the booker him/herself did online. That's a pretty unfair and broad stroke/assumption to make, and a factually incorrect one.

Yes, for certain, simpler transactions, quick flights, short/city-stays, or a destination you're very familiar with, it can be advantageous to do it yourself, online.

But you must factor in, what is YOUR personal time worh sifting through the sea of online reviews on Januted, Hotel Chatter, Trip Advisor, etc and how can you make an informed decision? Information overload often sets in, and a Travel Consultant is often worth their fees in giving an professional view, often with private, insider's information not available on the web.

Travel agencies also have access to private/negotiated airfares, hotels, travel packages, and can also often secure better rooms, free upgrades, credits, amenities and list clients as VIPs which can not be done online. And it is not only for luxury travel.

I responded to a similar inquiry in the LA Times, and here's what the Editor re-printed, based on my reply:

More on finding a good travel agent

Regarding Catharine Hamm's "If You Need a Pro" on finding a good travel agent ["On the Spot," April 12].

There are several good sources for finding reputable travel professionals:

* American Society of Travel Agents
www.travelsense.org/agents
All travel agents in this directory are ASTA members and adhere to a code of ethics.

* Virtuoso
www.virtuoso.com
Virtuoso is the world's most exclusive network of travel advisors, with only 1% of travel agencies invited to join.

* Signature Travel Network
www.signaturetravelnetwork.com/find-travel-consultant.cfm
Signature travel professionals are ranked among the best in their field.

* Ensemble Travel Group
www.ensembletravel.com/custom/agencylocator.php
Our international network of 1,000 expert travel agencies.

Please share these with readers so that they have a more complete and accurate picture of when, how and why to use a travel professional.

-- John Clifford, President, DS, LS, RMP
-- www.InternationalTravelManagemenet.com
-- Luxury Travel Consultancy
-- San Diego, CA

There are still great agents out there.

There are a lot of great reasons to use an agent. Have you read any of the horror stories of people who have booked online only to show up at their hotel to be told they didn't have a reservation, or the hotel was oversold? We have a strict no-walk policy. The hotel you book is the hotel you'll stay at. We're travelers ourselves, so we're able to provide you with our firsthand insight of what the properties are really like. Believe me-many hotels look very different in person than they do online! A good agent should be able to add value to your trip and make it a memorable, stress free experience. You can read reviews and find a lot of great information online, but none of those people will be there when your flights are canceled, or you find yourself violently ill and can't make your flight. Your agent will be. www.blisshoneymoons.com

I love my travel agent!

When it comes to air travel, I always book the ticket myself. I worked with travel agents in the past for air travel, however they have told me I would find better fares on-line. On the other hand, without any hesitation, I always consult my travel agent with any hotel res I am planning. Whether it's pricing and/or upgrades, VIP services, and other perks, she is worth her weight in gold! Even after my second reservation, she knows what I like and what I look for in a hotel.

NO, never again

I'm used to travel and before internet age I had to use agencies. But today I'm happy to book on Internet. Eaven it's sometimes a pain to find unusal offers.

I love my limo agent

Online info is very easy to obtain as it saves a lot of our time. Travelers can not only book their dream vacation online but also have their hotels and transportation booked well in advance. The traditional travel agents have surely been taken over by tourist web sites.

Bring Back The Travel Agents.

I wish Travel Agents would come back with a Vengenance and take back what should be theirs! You may be able to book online a little cheaper but everyone is forgetting not only the convenience of using Travel Agents but the experience, professional opinions, and the fact that most good agents have traveled the areas you want to go. Expedia, priceline and etc cant provide those details, information, nor do they have your back when something goes wrong. I like to walk into a place and say " Whats good this time of season? " What is the best deal? And get the packages, pictures and everything thing layed out for me. Sell me the Sizzle, the excitement of finally going on vacation, sell me the awesome feeling of going on VACATION and not stressing over the details, because my agent who I trust, and always returns to, has taken care of me and my family for years. And for all the unfortunate people that received rotten, lame service from a incompetent agent, I feel for you, but when you find someone you trust, and on a spontaneous moment call your agent and say I need to get away for the weekend, I have some time off and feeling like beach weekend in Costa Rica, what do you have? 30 Minutes later your packing.....yeah, please bring back the Travel Agents, they can get the deals like expedia and priceline, if only they had the balls to take back what was rightfully theirs.

I agree...

Bring Back The Travel Agents. I wish Travel Agents would come back with a Vengenance and take back what should be theirs! You may be able to book online a little cheaper but everyone is forgetting not only the convenience of using Travel Agents but the experience, professional opinions, and the fact that most good agents have traveled the areas you want to go. Expedia, priceline and etc cant provide those details, information, nor do they have your back when something goes wrong. I like to walk into a place and say " Whats good this time of season? " What is the best deal? And get the packages, pictures and everything thing layed out for me. Sell me the Sizzle, the excitement of finally going on vacation, sell me the awesome feeling of going on VACATION and not stressing over the details, because my agent who I trust, and always returns to, has taken care of me and my family for years. And for all the unfortunate people that received rotten, lame service from a incompetent agent, I feel for you, but when you find someone you trust, and on a spontaneous moment call your agent and say I need to get away for the weekend, I have some time off and feeling like beach weekend in Costa Rica, what do you have? 30 Minutes later your packing.....yeah, please bring back the Travel Agents, they can get the deals like expedia and priceline, if only they had the balls to take back what was rightfully theirs.

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