Travel Agents Are Your Guides

Travel agents assess individual’s and business people’s needs to help them make the best possible travel arrangements. An agent may specialize by type of travel, such as leisure or business, or destination, such as Europe, Africa or Australia. Travel agents also promote travel packages on behalf of cruise lines, resorts and specialty travel groups.

On a typical day a travel agent will give advice on destinations. They also make arrangements for transportation, hotel accommodations, car rentals, tours, and recreation. They advise on weather conditions, restaurants, tourist attractions, and recreation. They provide information on customs regulations, required papers (passports, visas, and certificates of vaccination), and currency exchange rates to international travelers. They consult published and computer-based sources for information on departure and arrival times, fares, and hotel ratings and accommodations. And they also visit hotels, resorts, and restaurants to evaluate comfort, cleanliness, and quality of food and service.

You can hear horror stories each week where tourists get caught out by arriving at a destination only to find out that the connecting flight has already gone all because they did not allow time for transfers, delays and overbooking seats. We hear many stories that hotel rooms are not what they looked like in the picture.

Another common problem is that the hotel is miles away from the action, shopping or attractions and the only way around is by cab. This is all because they did not hire a reliable travel agent who will guide them.

Travel agents are the best you can find. They know the ins and outs of the industry in order to help you avoid the pitfalls. They give you correct information so that expensive vacation would turn into a personalized and positive experience. They can make invaluable recommendations based on their own personal experience. They can help you arrange a truly great vacation based on your budget. Based on your likes, dislikes, personality, and style of your spouse, travel agents can suggest destinations, options, and activities to suit your liking.

Travel agents from them can provide first-hand advice on most frequented destinations because they have been thoroughly trained. They have accumulated necessary information so that they can deliver professional and accurate information to you.

The travel agency offers complete travel service such as domestic and international airfares and corporate travel, coach tours, rail travel, river cruising, car rental, ski holidays, travel insurance, visa assistance, group tours, and expert advice and professional service.

Travel Pre And Post Internet

Travel Pre Internet:

I’ve been travelling for over 40 years – by thumb in my early days, by boots in the Scouts, a Lambretta came next and then my first old banger followed by newer old bangers to the beaches of the Costa Brava.

My thumb, boots, bikes and bangers took me all over Europe and the UK before finding that a charter flight to Spain on an old ‘Connie’ could get me to the beaches and bars a lot quicker and allow more time to enjoy the local travel opportunities by horse and cart and the occasional bus and train.

‘Go West and Prosper’ seemed to be a good idea so instead of taking an 8 hour flight I took an 8 day transatlantic crossing from Tilbury to Montreal on the Stephan Batory of Polish Ocean Lines ensuring that jet lag did not trouble my travel plans. Some years later I crossed the pond again on a ship but this time it was 5 times bigger and I travelled in style on the QE2 and dined in the Queen’s Grill somewhat removed from my earlier experience. I highly recommend ocean voyages but cannot see myself on one of the modern cruise ships going from port to port with constant line-ups to get on and off to buy t-shirts. However, I have done 10 Windjammers and a Star Clipper cruise in the Caribbean which were all memorable (let’s hope Windjammer Barefoot Cruises recover from their woes). But I digress.

I had read that Canada is a spectacular country, from sea to shining sea, and my entrance into the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and then heading west in an old Econoline van from the Great Lakes, across the Prairies to the Rocky Mountains before ending up whale watching off of the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island was a trip of wonder to a bloke from London. Today the scenery is still spectacular and the best way to go is still by road so rent or buy a car, motorhome or motorbike, take the train or tour bus but remember the maps, a fly rod, good boots and take your time.

My favorite part of Canada / USA for adventure travel has to be Northern BC / Alaska, to hike the Chilkoot Trail in the steps of the goldseekers of 1898. The Northwest Territories to canoe the Nahannie River and the Yukon to drive from Dawson City to Chicken, Alaska. If you like the outdoors and can put up with a few bugs, cast a fly and scale a few hills or drive on endless dirt roads sharing the space with moose, caribou, elk, bears and eagles, then these are the places to put on your list. The pleasures and experiences in driving to Inuvik on the Dempster Highway or to Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton Highway or even the Canol Road can only be felt by doing them. I would have mentioned the Alaska Highway but now it is an easy drive unlike the aforementioned.

Today the costs of driving these distances may mean that sharing the journey with others is required, but RVing or simply vanning and camping is a great way to see beyond the horizon. Some enroute adventures now need to be booked in advance whereas when I hiked Denali and the Chilkoot Pass it was just a case of turning up, registering with the local ranger office and heading on out. A little more forward planning is needed for today’s traveller and cost considerations of lengthy flights or drives have to somehow be countered with more careful planning. In the days of reasonable gas prices I would not even consider the driving or flying costs and have driven to Key West from the northwest coast, down the west coast to the Baja and to the west coast from New York. I once even flew my 1946 Fleet taildragger from the Pacific to the Atlantic and back using around 5 gallons an hour of avgas. Before the oil and credit crisis I drove from Rio de Janeiro to Lima, down to Tierra del Fuego and back to Rio covering over 15,000 miles of spectacular scenery and with no consideration about the cost of gas. South America should be on your itinerary too! Some other memorable drives that may now require a mortgage with the gas companies include London to The Nordkapp, Norway, Skippers Canyon in New Zealand and the loneliness of the far north of Australia and the amazing coast of Western Australia stopping by at Monkey Mia and Wave Rock.

We tend to forget that the real cost of travelling is often less today than over the 40 years of my travels. In 1977 my round-trip airfare from Canada to Australia cost over $1700 in 1977 dollars so today it is far cheaper to fly, even with the airlines gouging for fuel, extra baggage, no service and no pleasure. The ‘Big Mac’ method of price comparison as developed by The Economist newspaper gives us a good gauge for most expenditures of today compared to yesterday but my $1500 cost to get a private pilots licence in the 1970’s seems cheap by comparison to today, but obviously not when using this Big Mac principle. Other travel costs are also far cheaper today but this should not mean that travellers should disregard the many methods of saving costs that can then be put to extended or improved travel experiences

Travel Post-Internet:

In my 40 years of travel I have had to use travel agents to make even the simplest of reservations and buy tickets, not even thinking to ask them if they had “been there, done that?” It was just a case of there being no other options to buying travel. Now we have unlimited choices and can seek out better travel agents, better prices, better selections and information about anywhere in the world for our travels – without even leaving home.

The Internet now gives travellers ideas and options of Where to go, When to go, Why to go, What to do, Who to book with and How to save money and offset costs. We can search and find experts for every travel option. If we are comfortable with the Internet we no longer have to go to a travel agent to make reservations and buy tickets except to book with some of the larger travel companies that still produce glossy brochures and offer all inclusive packages or tours that only sell through the agency system. The Internet also allows those of us who are smart enough to know when to seek out a top travel agent with knowledge, experience and expertise (KEE skills) of destinations and activities about where to find them. There is no longer any need to only use our local agents when we can find one somewhere else in the world. When we do not need ‘the knowledge’ and can do it ourselves we simply surf the web so that we can book directly with tour and travel operators wherever we have decided to go.

Some travel agents operate their own tours, some are both wholesale and retail, some limit consumer selection by only selling their ‘preferred’ suppliers and some have professional consultants with years of experience invested in gaining knowledge, experience and expertise and are worth their weight in gold to the savvy traveller. Beware though, as some are also called destination specialists and some of these designations merely require the agent to take a rudimentary test offered by tourism offices, destination marketing groups or even tour operators and in my opinion can harm the reputation of the travel industry. A specialist is not necessarily an expert.

Travel is probably the most used commercial aspect of the Internet and if retail agents want to harness this exciting medium to offer ‘the knowledge’ and their ‘kee’ skills to a global audience, not just their local community, they must embrace the changes that are happening. Travellers now have the ability to seek answers to the 5 W’s of travel and the important ‘How to’ save money and offset costs by having information just a click away.

And then it occurred to me that even internet travel prices often include a commission element even when sold directly to the consumer. If we book directly with operators we should not have to pay full retail prices as we are doing for ourselves what a retail agent would normally do for us. A dilemma for the operator is that to show a both a retail and a cost price option could deter many agents from selling the services as travellers could use an agent for free advice and book directly with the operator to get a ‘net of commission’ price. Obviously this two tier pricing is not often available but travellers who do not need advice should also not be penalized by retail pricing. A new way had to be found and I think I have found it!

The need for fairer fare prices is why I developed the Top Travel Voucher program at The Top Travel Club and I even found a dot com for it. All travel selections on the site are at ‘net of commission’ prices for members who handle there own travel arrangements directly with the operators linked on the club website using our voucher program.

I am inviting travel operators from around the world to join this program, from B&B’s, Motels, Hotels, Luxury Lodges, Eco Resorts, Beach Resorts and Tour and Adventure Operators who want to promote their products and services to travellers who are comfortable with direct bookings and reservations.

I am also inviting Travel Agents with knowledge, experience and expertise of destinations and activities to showcase their skills to a global audience of travellers and to the members of this new travel club. I am leery of ‘specialist agents’ and only want experts to showcase their services.

This opportunity is available to the travel trade at no cost except for them to offer net, wholesale or outlet prices to club members and visitors to the website using top travel vouchers. I believe this program offers fairer fare prices to direct-booking travellers. The operator would normally be paying commission anyway but now travellers get the savings because they make their own arrangements.

The Top Travel Club opened in mid-April 2008 offering thousands of top travel vouchers for travel in over 70 countries with around 150 travel operators onboard. Every week we add more travel operators with more choices for members. Currently you can get savings on accommodations, adventure travel, boat charters, culinary tours, hike, bike and dive tours, auto and RV rentals fishing lodges and guides, safaris, vacation rentals, single travel, women only and dude ranches. Members get the vouchers free of charge by paying an annual membership fee and non-members can buy the vouchers on the internet at Top Travel Sites at deeply discounted prices to the face-value. The future growth will include restaurants, travel clothing, travel insurance and the opportunity to access air ticket consolidators who want to deal directly with consumers.

The way I have travelled and the way I see travel is that consumers should have unlimited access to every travel opportunity with the ability to do their own due diligence or to find a professional who can offer quality advice and services at fair prices, and to find all of this without needing endless hours of searching.

To find out more about the new way of cost offsets for travel please go to The Top Travel Club and my apologies for some of the spelling (traveller / traveler) but that is what I was taught. As long as we all understand the meaning, vive le difference!

Do You Need Travel Agents?

Information can be accessed anywhere because of technology. We can research and obtain data right inside the comfort of our homes. The Internet is such a powerful tool that with just a click of your computer mouse, or a touch on the computer screen, you can now go anywhere you want to go. Even though there are websites that can provide you services for booking your trip, it is still very important to hire the services of travel agents, especially someone who is connected to a reliable travel agency. It does not mean that the Internet is useless, because obviously, booking your own travel online saves you time and money. But the advantages of hiring travel agents have their own merits as well.

1. Travel agencies can help you save time by doing all the research, coordinating all the logistics, and putting together a complete itinerary for your trip in just a few minutes. When you wish to book online, you can spend hours, or days, or even months going from one website to another so that you can plan your own itinerary. Why not pick up the phone and let professional travel agents do the job for you?

2. Travel agencies are professionally trained to know all the ins and outs of popular travel destinations. They have the first-hand knowledge and access to resources such as special offers and discounts that are exclusively available to them.

3. You can take advantage of the resources that only professional travel agents have access to. When something goes wrong, they can help solve the problem immediately rather than waiting for appropriate response to your complaints. An extra charge is always expected for ancillary services but it far outweighs the risks if you do not use a travel agent.

If you decide to avail of the services of professional travel agents, you can find them online. The agency has bona fide, travel professionals. They pass the following criteria:

1. They have the knowledge and personality. Even through your intuition alone, you will know that you have found the right person. You can have the assistance and service when you need them. They offer discounts, insurance, and the best accommodation according to your budget.

2. They are certified travel agents.

3. Makes personal visits.

4. They will be on the front-line when you run into trouble related to your travel. Under such circumstances, they are professionals you can rely upon.

Booking Travel Online Vs Travel Agents

This topic is a hot one. My previous job was as a travel consultant for one of the largest travel consulting agencies in the world and I have traveled to over 22 countries in the past 8 years, and have booked travel using every method possible.

The truth is, it really depends on how much time and effort you are willing to put into planning your trip. Planning and purchasing something as simple as a round trip flight online could not be easier and I highly recommend it to save money and time. It requires very little information and thought. Travel agencies charge for their service, and that charge could be between $20.00 – $200.00, depending on the flight and destination. As well, there is nothing that the travel agent can provide for you that the internet cannot.

If you are planning a larger trip, with multiple destinations, internal flights or tourist attractions, booking online could be a bit more work. Having said that, it is still not that hard. It is just a matter of doing your research. If you are planning a trip to Spain and are planning to travel on to Italy by boat afterwards you would simply have to search the information on busses or trains for your overland travel in Spain, and the ferry information for your boat to Italy. Sometimes you are able to pre-purchase your internal travel or tourist attraction tickets online, sometimes you can take care of it when you arrive at the location.

However, if the research is something that you do not have time for, or you feel a bit more secure having your trip planned by someone who does this as a profession, a travel agent may be the answer for you. They have the ability use a plethora of travel resources and their experienced co-workers, but this will come at an extra cost for their service.

Here is an example of a fairly large trip I planned as a travel agent. Two clients of mine wanted to travel to the UK for 3 weeks. They asked me to plan everything from international and domestic flights to the hotels and travel insurance. By the time that this entire trip was booked and paid for, the clients ended up paying roughly $500.00 more than they would have online. As a travel agent in this particular company, as with many companies, you are expected to mark your products up, and are penalized for not doing so. The clients did not see this mark up as it was hidden in the grand total.

Everything that I planned and booked for these clients could have been booked online. As a travel agent I had access to a few cheaper hotels than they would have found online, but as a travel agent, I was expected to mark them up! The security of having them reserved and paid for when they arrived was worth it to these senior citizen travelers. Travel agents are not rip off artists, but it is part of their job to “mark it up”.