Now that travel, using online booking has become thoroughly established, is there any need for the traditional travel agents?
Online booking gives one the ability to price-checking between both, well known and obscure companies that offer updated flight, hotel and package deals. They have links and sponsorships with car-rental services and advertising from (mostly) relevant links that you can spend time perusing.
The competition between online online companies alone, leaves them with little choice other than to provide a good service, as reviews are readily available, and will use them as endorsements. The fight for your hard-earned holiday budget drive their prices down and want to give you the largest selection of flights, hotels and any extras you might think of. They want your business.
There has to be a word said for the travel agents though. I recently booked a trip to Australia using Traveller’s World in Salisbury, as my family has been doing for years. We even use the same agent, have his card on the cork-board and ask for him when we call the agency. After going in to collect my tickets, printed out itinerary and luggage labels, all in a neat cardboard wallet, I realised that the seat I’d asked for wasn’t correct. No problem, I just called our friendly agent and he sorted it. Simple as that.
This is a level of service that you will be pressed to find with an online retailer. Although they have deals and are often a little less expensive than agencies, the after-sale is where they are less comprehensive. The agent will get to know you, after repeated correspondence. They will understand and answer and questions you have and if they don’t know, they can find out for you. If you would like a particular room in a hotel or want to change any details, they can help you with it. I always recommend that you book with plenty of time ahead, as last minute alterations can often come with a penalty from the flight company or hotel.
Don’t forget that the online retailers are just that, retailers. They want to sell you a product, and once you’ve given over your cash, it’s your responsibility to sort any issues you may have.
In my opinion, the industry will go towards more agents that are available via telephone, email or online booking. The high street shops that you could once go in, with an appointment and have a nice long chat with your agent who you’ve known for years, are a thing of the past. Or soon to be.
If you’re planning a weekend away or a budget vacation, then booking online is probably your best bet. Find new deals and shop around for the best package. Expedia.com, Lastminute.com are great for booking. Also use TravelSupermarket.com and TripAdvisor.com for reviews and deal-checking.
For your big holidays/work trips, that you’ve been saving for and need to have just-right, find a really good agent, with a trusted company like FlightCentre, Traveller’s World or STA Travel. Then for as long as you can, keep using them. Paying a little more, (they’re reducing their costs all the time) is worth it. Even when you’re away, they’re just a phone call from sorting out any incidentals. They’ll also let you know if you need any e-visas for your destination and can get them for you easily.