Study on Why Some Consumers Use Travel Agents – And Why Some Do Not
Disclosure – (This is a re-post of a blog post I did in 2011 but the facts are still as relevant today as they were then)
This was in my inbox this morning – the results of an extensive study into why some consumers use travel agents and why some do not.
It’s funny! It’s sad. It’s real perceptions, correct or not.
Some of it rings true, and some of it just doesn’t – see my views on the reality of the perceptions below each and let me know what YOU think because I would love to know…
- They don’t trust travel agents and think of us as used car sellers or real estate agents; we don’t work in their best interests.
Is that to say that all real estate professionals and all used car sellers think only of their wallet?
I disagree – and in fact I have been trying to think of a profession that does not include some “bad seeds” and cannot think of any. Do you think that there are not dentists who will sell you a crown you don’t need, or furnace repair people who won’t sell you a furnace when what you need is your filter cleaned- even clergy who don’t truly believe or abuse their position? Every profession includes individuals who will not have your best interests in mind- the trick is to seek out those individuals in whatever profession you are in need of help from, ask for references and trust your instincts. Do an internet search about them and see what it returns – look at their facebook page for comments- positive or negative.
Many travel professionals will go to great lengths to serve and think only of YOUR best interests.
- They don’t see the value of using a travel agent since everything they could possibly want is available online.
Sure- all the information is on the internet. To that point I just did a quick Google search for “best Sandals resort” and got 11,400,000 results. Even something narrow like “things to do while in Grand Cayman” brought 536,000 results so I hope you have some time on your hands because some critical information that you seek might just be on page 637 of those search results…
Think Tripadvisor is a great resource? Think those an unbiased reviews? Sure, some are – others are written by the hotel manager’s wife or the competitor next door. Reading those reviews is almost like reading a Dickens novel-
Review #1 “It was the best of beds”
Review #2 “It was the worst of beds”
Review #3 “The food was superb”
Review #4 “I was eaten alive by bedbugs”
Seriously- who can trust anything there? Your travel pro can source accurate, independent and professional hotel reviews plus network with peers to find out the real story….
You need a friend in the travel business that you can turn to for advice. Most travel professionals put their reputation on the line with each client that they help- and they work for YOU independently. They can let you know if YOUR best fit may be at the resort down the beach, or on the cruise ship that you may never have even considered. Travel pros dedicate their lives to building a loyal following and do it by building trust one trip and one client at a time which earns not only repeat business but more importantly- Referrals.
- They don’t perceive travel agents as professionals; titles, designations, and certifications mean nothing to them.
Designations and certifications on their own are meaningless, except that they do signify that training has been completed and honors have been earned in sacrifice of time and energy. I do not spend time to earn certifications, I spend time to better understand all the nuances of each product – the certification or designation is simply the acknowledgment of time spent in training. From that perspective they do mean something- they mean dedication.
- They think it’s more expensive to use a travel agent and they think they can find a better deal themselves on the internet. They see commissions as a form of kickbacks which cloud our judgment and don’t understand how we are compensated. They hate being upsold, cross-sold, and being presented with solutions that are over the budget they stated.
Sometimes it is more expensive to use a travel agent – other times it is not. Many agents do not charge fees over and above the list price (EZTravelpad does not). Besides, if your price to book the Holiday Inn is the same price as your travel agent’s price to book the same Holiday Inn, what difference does it make whether someone earned commission?
Commissions are not “kickbacks” – they are the cost of doing business.
If a hotel or resort or cruise line must service the reservation themselves they must hire staff, pay insurance, perhaps provide work space – they must pay taxes, legal fees, administration, communications infrastructure, provide equipment, supplies and more- and these expenses are largely “fixed” overhead. If they can outsource many of those functions to independent businesses (travel agents) they can offer more competitive pricing. Additionally, what are Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline & DirtCheapResorts.com? They are travel agencies plain and simple.
As for being upsold- I did a search yesterday in the course of quoting a Honeymoon for a couple to Florida. The online provider offered Loews Don Cesar in St Pete – a great resort, but there was no option to upgrade to an oceanview and I have personally stood in the room category they quoted and know that if it were MY Honeymoon I would not appreciate the view of the parking lot. Sometimes being made aware of premium options is a valuable service!
- Even if they wanted to use an agent, they don’t know where to find one since agencies have all gone out of business (or gone home based). Those agencies that do still exist have agents with no enthusiasm, they’re overly negative, fat, old, pushy, semi-retired smokers who work in dusty offices with faded posters and may still live at home with their mothers.
That is SO funny! That is ME!! I just can’t seem to get my hands on any of those faded posters though- Dang it!
Ok, seriously – that is not the portrait of me (although I could stand to lose a few pounds)…
But- One thing in life that is certain – change. Some agents have become burned out and moved on- victims of changing times. Other agents stubbornly hang on wishing for “the good old days” that will never return.
Yet, there are MANY great agencies that do fantastic work and their clients LOVE them. Many agents reinvented themselves because technology and communications liberated them to be able to do business outside of their traditional office from 9-5 M-F. Now you are likely to be able to reach your travel professional be phone, email, text, Facebook, Skype, etc. late into the night, very early in the morning, on holidays or even while THEY are on vacation (which is probably more of a working holiday as they experience new destinations so they can better provide opinion and experience for their clients).
There are many well established agencies that are totally client focused, and many new agencies that have opened within the past several years. New agencies mean new and fresh ideas and energy. I may be old and fat and smoke and live with my Mom (or not), but I have an energy and a zeal that many seasoned agents no longer possess. I love the opportunities to see and experience new things in my life, and I am constantly excited to help others experience some of those things as well –
THAT is why I am in this business.
Where do you find an agent? Look on your Facebook page – do a Google search for agents that specialize in the type of trip or destination that you desire, use the search field on the website of the resort or cruise line or tour operator you are considering – in short, use the internet! Or- ask a friend…
- They might use an agent if the agent could give them “special” knowledge or deals that they could not do themselves or find on the internet. Those that do use an agent recognized that there can be a value to expertise and they may save time and money.
If your selected travel professional is not giving you “special” knowledge then find one that does!
Deals are great- but sometime the best “deal” is free advice or an insider’s tip or a word dropped to management to take special care of my special client. Can your travel agent find you a good deal? Sure- but they can offer a great deal more than that! If not, contact EZTravelpad and see for yourself.