Imagine my surprise when I came across this extremely negative piece of journalism regarding travel agents from a magazine that I have subscribed and read for years! A huge shame-on-you to Woman’s Day for publishing an article with so many blatant lies as a desperate attempt to sell magazines. The fact that you have the entire travel agent community in an uproar with your misleading article should speak volumes about the amount of harm and irreparable damage you have caused by allowing one journalist to spew her fallacies regarding hard-working travel agencies everywhere.
Each item of the piece is so filled with outright lies and twisted truths, that it is any wonder that the sources this author claims to have quoted either cannot be found, or apparently have gone out of business. The fact that your magazine had to change a portion of the title from “10 things” to” 9 things” tells you that there is already something gravely amiss with the article. The journalist may never be able to hold her head up high again, and owes a huge apology to the thousands of travel agencies that she has defamed everywhere.
As a sit here and try to discredit this piece, I am saddened, as I wonder just how many readers will believe these lies and be cheated out of the wonderful opportunity to find out just what a travel advisor can do for them. However, I am hopeful that after you read what I, and many other honest agents have to say, that people will be able to make a honest decision regarding using a travel agency to book their dream getaways.
1. They’re making commission… and maybe even a bonus for booking your travel. This means they’re trying to influence your vacation decisions based on perks on offer at that particular time.
So, how does a travel agent get paid? Yes, through commissions; and not very much at that. In fact travel agents choose this industry because they love helping people, and they love travel! We don’t book for the highest commissions, but we do book with the best interests of the customer in mind. Any agent that allows you to book a less than stellar vacation will not be in business for very long. Here is a secret that they didn’t mention – That a travel agent’s commission is built in to the price of every travel product out there; regardless of how one decides to book. Is it any wonder that so many people are not getting what they have already paid for; the valuable knowledge and services of a travel agent? By booking online or going direct, those commissions go back to the hotel or travel supplier’s coffers, and the customer is left on their own.
2. They may not be able to book (or price) all airline carriers.
Your comment about not being able to book all airline carriers is also entirely false, as we are able to book all major carriers, and are not bound to one supplier. This also allows us to be extremely competitive with the big online travel agencies. Here is the scoop: If I receive a phone call to book airfare-only, I will gladly let that person know where they can book that piece themselves online. I also let them know that if I were to book airfare alone without another component, then I would have to charge a fee. But if that person is already my customer, I will happily do it, even though I am not getting paid for these services; because as many do not know, the airlines stopped paying travel agent commissions years ago! Here is another secret tip they should have said: Many agencies do not charge any service fees whatsoever!
Your additional comment about their not being much advantage to booking a package with a travel agent over booking online is laughable, as I usually will not only be able to match or beat the online price, but will be able to negotiate extra amenities, and possible upgrades. Not to mention if something goes wrong, the customer is not sitting on hold for 3 hours with a foreign call center that knows absolutely nothing about their trip or their itinerary. Most travel agents have industry wide contacts, and pull, and are able to get to the top of the food chain for a resolution should something occur, and we do it as part of our service! Plus travel agents have inside information on different flights as well as a huge network of other agencies to collaborate with.
3. They may not have been to the hotel or on the cruise ship they’re recommending.
When you mention that we lie about the places we have been to, or sell things that we haven’t experienced, you then lead other’s to believe that we can’t be trusted. Of course we haven’t been to every single place that we recommend! To do so would take more than several lifetimes! What I do recommend is places and areas that I have visited myself, or have had continuous knowledge or training in. I specialize in areas that I know well, and will also network with other agencies for more information. Between me and the agencies that I work with, we have been there, done that, and seen it all! You forget that those who work for the large online booking agencies have absolutely no knowledge on most properties, much less have traveled in their entire lives!
4. Be flexible with travel dates and airports.
When you mention that travel agents are not flexible when it comes to others getaways, you are grossly mistaken, as we will tirelessly customize trips according to a customer’s tastes, budget, and desires. Your telling people that they should go and book their air on their own is misleading, as we know that customer’s will garner the most savings when you combine air with another component or package. However if booking air alone is their only need, then an online travel site like Kayak is ideal!
5. Travel insurance may not be necessary.
Your paragraph about travel agencies offering insurance because it can increase their commission is also misleading, as certain stated do require that we offer insurance to our customers! Telling people that just because they have health coverage here is the US, and that they may be covered is doing a disservice, as you forget to mention that if someone needs to be airlifted out of a country or off a ship that their regular coverage is not going to be any help in a foreign country. Not to mention that one’s personal health insurance is not going to cover trip cancellation. Travel insurance is something that must be decided on an individual basis; and I for one would not be crazy enough to recommend to others that their health insurance will cover them.
6. They’re best for milestone trips.
We’re best for milestone trips? Really? What trip has anyone gone on, that they didn’t want to be treated like a VIP? Every trip is a special trip in our eyes. We are not just for booking complicated itineraries. Travel agencies are amazing for when people are busy, and don’t have that extra time or knowledge to really to really allow themselves a custom personalized getaway!
7. Online travel sites offer refunds and cancellation policies.
Your comment about only online travel sites are able to offer refunds and cancellation policies, allowing the reader to think that a travel agent’s doesn’t allow those same capabilities. Anyone that books a trip through a travel agent will ultimately be able to cancel, and just like any online travel site, there are cancellation policies and possible penalties. We are no different in that respect, and are bound by the same set of rules, so that is another falsehood that should be blasted. How we are different is the extra personalized service that you will get with your trip, and a real live person that you can call and bounce ideas off of. A good travel agent will be your lifeline should you ever need one.
8. A travel agent won’t necessarily find the best price.
The biggest lie that I read was that a “travel agent won’t necessarily find the best price.” Can I say that not only can we match a price, more times than not, we can also beat it! This is true on the cruise side, as we often have special group sailings that are several hundred cheaper than the online published rate. For the land side, ours suppliers are able to book in bulk, thus being able to offer huge price savings as well. We also recommend restaurants, can book entertainment tickets, arrange theater tickets, transfers, and even in room amenities, all without a customer having to jump website to website and deal with different entities. Here is another tip for you – It might be acceptable to make an unimportant purchase such as a magazine subscription via Groupon or Living Social!
9. A travel agent won’t tell you that they make the bulk of their money on packages, so if you’re booking hotels, airfare or rental cars with rewards points, they’re losing big dollars.
That statement is ludicrous, because if a customer wants to be able to use their points, they can book that portion themselves, as I cannot. However, what my particular agency can help them with is their American Express points. I can also assist with all of the other components that do not involve points; thereby saving them money.
Face it; I am not against someone going online scouring every site for the “cheapest deal”. They are truly not my type of customer. After all, I am not going to book something at a 2 star property, and expect my customer’s to be happy. My type of customer is the one that wants the best value for their hard-earned money, and doesn’t want to waste hours on the internet searching for it, or being confused by millions of options. My customers want to be treated like a VIP, and know that I will be there for them at 2 in the morning, and will call to check on them when they come home. They know that when I offer them advice, I truly care about their needs, and I want them to return and tell their friends. This is how I run my business.
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Jeff & Kimberly Jacoby
Your Romantic Travel Planning Specialists
My Response to the Sensationalistic Woman's Day Article, “9 Things Your Travel Agent Will Not Tell You.”
by Kimberly Jacoby