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“A” is for agent

I am getting used to it but the term “travel agent” still makes me cringe and many of my colleagues feel the same way. Perhaps the term is not descriptive enough. It is easy to become a travel agent. There are a slew of host agencies out there that provide the resources and licences for anyone who pays their sign up fee. However, not all host agencies are the same and the training they provide can take the right person from not knowing the difference between SJO and SJC to being an industry pro. Google “What does a travel agent do?” and the top answer is “help individuals, groups, and business travellers plan and organize their travel schedules, from purchasing tour packages to booking flights and hotels.” True enough. That is what we do but, to me, the description falls short. 

Take, for example, a day in the life: I recently had a client whose flight home from Brazil had a schedule change by the airline. The new date and time proposed was fine with her. She was travelling with her Chihuahua so before accepting the change, I called the airline to confirm that there was space for her pup in the cabin on the new flight. Unfortunately, the answer was no. Three flights a week on this particular route and every one for the next three weeks was at capacity for animals. After a few panicked phone calls and two hours on hold I was able to have an additional pet space approved on the new flight. Problem solved.

Of course, I love planning travel but taking the extra steps to help people find something meaningful to them is the best part of my job. I love the research and finding solutions to puzzles like the best fare with the least travel time on a flight to Bora Bora. A boyfriend once told me that I should be a detective. I see our break up, which happened not long after that,  as a testament to my sleuthing skills.

In the age of being able to find anything on the internet no one really needs a travel agent. However, especially with post pandemic travel, it helps to have someone with an ear to the industry. Here are a few more reasons to use an agent:

1. Connections. Agencies have established relationships with tour operators, hotels and airlines and are more likely to be able to pull some strings for special requests like late check out or an ocean view room.

2. Strength in numbers. Looking for the best way to spend Halloween in Ireland or a unique birdwatching experience in Borneo? When you choose to work with a travel agent you are not only working with that person but also their entire network of colleagues. Chances are someone has been there.

3. Travel stress. When I worked as a tour leader I told my groups from the beginning that things might go wrong. Travel is rarely without incident. Buses breakdown, passports are misplaced, global pandemics happen and entire countries shut down. Here is where an agent comes in handy, it can be less stressful when you know that you have someone on your side during these times. Grab a good book while your agent stays on hold with the airline.

So, yes, A is for agent but it is also for advisor and advocate, B- benefits getter, C-counsellor, D-direct contact, E-ear to listen, F-friend, the list goes on..

I’d love to hear your thoughts on travel agents, why you would or would not use one. 

Post your comments below or email me: cynthia@personaltravel.ca

In case you were wondering, SJO= airport code for San Jose, Costa Rica  and SJC=San Jose, California. 

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