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Why use a travel agent?


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#1 TammyWright

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 11:17 PM

this was written by another travel agent that I admire and respect.

Quote:
I am a travel agent.
I'm sometimes called a travel counsellor, or a travel professional. I use my knowledge of destinations, resorts, escorted tours, cruise ships, air travel and attractions to 'counsel' clients on the best choices for their vacation dreams, desires and budgets.

As a travel agent, I add value.
Think of me as you would an accountant or a real estate agent. You can file your own tax return, but those who choose to use an accountant do so because they recognize that specialized knowledge pays off. The same goes for a real estate agent. You can sell your house without an agent, but most don't, because the absence of that knowledge can result in major problems. While my role is to match up clients with travel products, it's always your interests I represent. If anything goes wrong with your trip, I'm there for you.

Your time is precious.
You have choices today. You can research and book your trip online. You might even save a couple of dollars. If you're just booking a flight from point A to point B, or a car rental, or a hotel room, go ahead and book online. I won't be offended. You might find that it takes longer than you expected to find the 'best price' and if your flight is oversold or cancelled you'll be on your own. but if you're a gambler the odds are pretty good you'll be OK.

When it comes to your hard-earned vacation time, I will passionately defend the value of my services. That shiny brochure with the golden bodies sitting around a glistening pool doesn't always tell the whole story. I might know that the pool is under renovation, the rooms are tired and dated, that on the particular week of your holiday the place will be packed with drunken college kids. That might matter to you. That might even be worth many times the small fee I charge for my services.

Benefit from my knowledge.
My knowledge offers other benefits. The concierge who can arrange tickets to anything. That wonderful little restaurant tucked away in a side street. The seat on the plane with that extra legroom. These are the kinds of things I learn through my travels and studies. I'm thrilled to share them with you.

I am a travel agent.
This is how I make my living, but I won't get rich doing this. That's not my motivation. I love to travel, see new places, meet new people, enjoy new sensations. More than anything, I love the feedback from clients that my knowledge, care and attention helped them creat lasting memories. That's worth a lot to them. What is it worth to you?

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#2 *JillD*

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    Posted 07 January 2008 - 11:23 PM

    That's a great article Tammy!

    I think it really helps people that have never worked with a TA to see on paper what the benefits are and why it's worth it to have someone on your side if something goes wrong!

    You know expedia isn't going to be making any calls on our behalf!

    #3 TATrisha

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    Posted 08 January 2008 - 04:46 PM

    Sadly not all TA's are like this I should have went with you Tammy despite the distance Not only would I have gotten better service from Expedia but certainly better prices. Double frown

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    #4 LCBride2007

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      Posted 08 January 2008 - 04:51 PM

      Just to add another reason, and the main reason, I used a TA for my wedding (though I had never used one before).

      I travel for work A LOT, so I often get a lot of travel questions from my friends and family. I really did not want to deal with all of our guests contacting Paul and I with questions regarding their travel to our wedding. It may sound bad, but I just didn't want to deal with it! It was so nice that they could contact Tammy, and she could help them and guide them (thanks, Tammy!). And if/when last minute problems came up, my guests didn't have to try to track me down, and my wedding week vacation wasn't interrupted.

      #5 Maura

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      Posted 08 January 2008 - 05:05 PM

      Tammy et al, I'm seriously considering using a travel agent because we definitely don't want our guests calling us with problems or questions about booking their travel. Many people have already asked us if we have a group airline discount and other questions. I am totally clueless about using travel agents because when I travel for work, I have an assistant who books it for me through our corporate travel agency. I guess what I am asking is, can you provide a rundown of how using a travel agent works, what the costs associated with it are, etc etc.

      For me personally, part of my contract with the Westin is that we have to guarantee a minimmum of 10 rooms reserved for 3 nights each. We obviously will use more rooms than 10 but I'm wondering if using a TA would mess up that block of rooms guarantee. And then for airfare, what a mess, I don't want to deal with my guests calling me to figure out that junk. Can you explain a bit more please? And other gals, if you've used a TA, please post your experiences how everything worked. Thanks!

      #6 nylalany

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        Posted 08 January 2008 - 07:17 PM

        I'm using a TA for the first time and it hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be. She said the group room rates at the resort weren't as cheap as the rates she's finding from suppliers (or maybe she claimed unless everyone is coming the same days, she couldn't do a group room rate?), so she is doing individual bookings for my guests. However, since she has to do each individually, it takes a while for her to email or call my guests back with quotes, and then more time to actual do the bookings. Since none of my guests (and I'm talking about 70-100 guests) are used to using a travel agent (we mostly book online), this delay is difficult for many of them to understand, especially since the delay can often be up to a week.

        Additionally, she talked me out of doing a group air rate since she felt it would be cheaper and easier for guests to do it individually, but then people have been asking about this because rates for airlines have already gone up since I originally sent out my STD (nobody called her right away unfortunately).

        AND because of the individual bookings, some of my guests are getting to the resort before I am getting there.

        Finally, for my own booking, she told me there are no direct flights on a certain day and then I found out there were, after the booking a longer stay. Now if I want to change there is a big penalty. I also do not have any physical form of confirmation, and I looked up my flight online on my airline's website and there is no record of it.

        So since I'm used to doing my own travel research (I actualy pointed her towards the lowest rates for the resort that I found online and she got her supplier to match it), and since I'm still trying to keep my guests organized b/c I feel like she isn't and because they keep wanting to book everything online, and b/c of the delay in getting stuff done compared with what I'm used to, this isn't what I expected. I'm not sure if my travel agent just can't handle things or if my expectations are too high?

        She also is unable to reach the hotel (Grand Riviera Maya Princess / Sunset Princess) to find out if I can have a rehearsal /welcome dinner there, althouh to be fair, I haven't been able to either. Other TAs I spoke to prior to her seemed to be more with it, but I don't know if they were over-promising, and she came recommended. Sorry to vent, but I'm getting a little worried.

        #7 starchild

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          Posted 12 February 2008 - 05:30 AM

          Nylalany, I hope someone can answer your questions, I'm not sure myself...
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


          For any of our TA's...I've had 2 issues with my TA, maybe you can clarify?

          1. The package price for air/hotel/transfers I get from her is roughly $100 more than what I've found online, at a few different sites. I also got an online quote that is cheaper with private transfers as opposed to the group van type the TA quoted me - do you think that is her commission factored in? No big deal but it got me curious as to how commission works because she isn't doing it for free.

          2. I want to fly into airport A, stay a few nights, drive to point B, stay a few nights, and fly home out of airport C (which is closest to point B). The TA told me I can't do that, I need to do RT out of the same airport. After little investigating I found that I can book the flights I want myself online or directly through the airlines, so is it that her suppliers don't do that? Just wondering why she wouldn't book the flights I asked for, even if she had to call the airline directly rather than go through her wholesaler.

          Gosh after reading that I may need a new TA....wink wink

          Just trying to clarify, thanks :o)

          #8 JenniferSS

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            Posted 12 February 2008 - 05:44 PM

            Quote:
            Originally Posted by nylalany
            I'm using a TA for the first time and it hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be. She said the group room rates at the resort weren't as cheap as the rates she's finding from suppliers (or maybe she claimed unless everyone is coming the same days, she couldn't do a group room rate?), so she is doing individual bookings for my guests. However, since she has to do each individually, it takes a while for her to email or call my guests back with quotes, and then more time to actual do the bookings. Since none of my guests (and I'm talking about 70-100 guests) are used to using a travel agent (we mostly book online), this delay is difficult for many of them to understand, especially since the delay can often be up to a week.

            Additionally, she talked me out of doing a group air rate since she felt it would be cheaper and easier for guests to do it individually, but then people have been asking about this because rates for airlines have already gone up since I originally sent out my STD (nobody called her right away unfortunately).
            Let's see if I can help-

            I've noticed and have spoke with other travel agents (to confirm that I wasn't losing it LOL!) about how the group rates seem to be creeping steadily higher and many times are higher than individual rates.Individual booking rates may be best ( depends on resort, time of year and how many traveling, plus if there are specials) and the amenities for the groups seem to be dwindling.

            Quite often the group rates may be higher, but the advantage is that as long as everyone pays their deposit within the timeframe- they are all paying the same rate. The bride & groom can also place deposits for stragglers- thus guaranteeing them the same rate as everyone else.

            Individual bookings may be less , but as travel pricing is fluid (sometimes changing right in the middle of a booking) some of the guests may pay less, some more. And of course as availability lessens the price goes up- I don't think you can hold your TA responsible for your guests procrastinating. The suppliers (whether they are through a TA or an online agency such as Expedia ect) base the price on how many rooms are in their inventory and are constantly adjusting to get the best ROI. The airlines also operate this way and typically group air is more expensive ( although again not always).

            Many of the suppliers will only allow 1 date deviation from a group- it all depends on what the hotel policies are, whether you have charter, bulk or published air and again time of year!

            What I do is look at all of the factors present and then make the recommendation to the bride & groom. I've had times where group rates are amazing with great charter air and then times where I've recommended individual rates- it really is a case by case basis. When I do individual rates- it may take me a bit to get back to the guests ( normally it may be a day or two at most) as I check with several suppliers to be sure I am offering the best value- ie flights, hotel & transfers. There are also suppliers who are typically less $$ than the ones I use. However I know that they have zero customer service and the rooms they contract with the resort are lousy- thus the cheap price.

            As an example- I may have a price of $XXX.XX with flights that have a do-able layover, two hours on the way out - 3 hours on the way back. This is along the east coast in the spring, I know that the guests more than likely will encounter delays during travel due to bad thunderstorms so I want to be sure they have enough time to make the connections. I also check to see that the flights on the way home leave at a reasonable hour as there is an hour and a half drive back to the airport from the resort- they need to check in at least 3 hours early as security can be really slow at this destination so an 8am flight home means that they are leaving the resort at the latest at 3am- yuk! My flights leave at 1pm.

            Guests goes to the internet and finds a price on orbitz that is $100.00 less. The kicker is the layover on the way out is 49 minutes- a perfectly legal connection, however the chances of making it are very slim and none if there is a delay! The way back the flights leave at 8am ( I know -you saw that coming!) Oh yeah- they didn't notice that transfers were included in my price but not in the online package.

            So the typical story goes- there was a delay due to weather, they missed the connection, next flight out is full and they will need to wait till the next day. The airline won't put them up at a hotel as it was a weather delay that caused the missed connection. After a 20 minute hold with online agency they are disconnected .....call back another 20 minutes to be told they need to deal directly with airline. Stay at airport hotel for $100.00 - food at hotel cost another $35.00 for dinner ( and if it was me another $50.00 in martini's , ) get on am flight the next day, arrive at airport to spend another $50.00 on transfers. Find out their ocean view room was given away and they are now downgraded to look over the dumpster ( I may be laying it on a bit thick but troll the internet you'll find dozens of stories like this!) but they can't check in until 4pm.

            That may not happen all of the time but it happens often enough! The point of my story is travel should not be all about price- a good travel agent brings experience, expertise and knowledge to the equation. Yes, sometimes we are a bit more than online- but it's not because we are trying to gouge our clients- it's because in the big picture we are recommending the best value! Most often though I find I bring a great value and a lower price!

            TA Jennifer

            #9 JenniferSS

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              Posted 12 February 2008 - 05:57 PM

              Quote:
              Originally Posted by nylalany
              So since I'm used to doing my own travel research (I actualy pointed her towards the lowest rates for the resort that I found online and she got her supplier to match it), and since I'm still trying to keep my guests organized b/c I feel like she isn't and because they keep wanting to book everything online, and b/c of the delay in getting stuff done compared with what I'm used to, this isn't what I expected. I'm not sure if my travel agent just can't handle things or if my expectations are too high?

              She also is unable to reach the hotel (Grand Riviera Maya Princess / Sunset Princess) to find out if I can have a rehearsal /welcome dinner there, althouh to be fair, I haven't been able to either. Other TAs I spoke to prior to her seemed to be more with it, but I don't know if they were over-promising, and she came recommended. Sorry to vent, but I'm getting a little worried.
              Ok, I digressed-oopsie! Back to NYLalany post!

              The better rates online may have been with one of those suppliers that have terrible customer service but she was diligent and had a good supplier match it- that actually should be a bonus and points in her court!

              Of course she could be as frustrated with your guests as you are- they are working her and then booking online, she only gets paid if they book with her.

              And then again she could have taken to much on and is overworked or may be an inexperienced agent or just not very good at what she does! Unfortunately, there are a few of those around.

              Oh yeah- your airfare issue may be that you are booked with a charter or bulk rates and they will not have your record in their system yet! Give her a call and ask!

              I hope that this helped at least a little!

              My advice to all DW brides who normally book online and know that their friends do also- let them know why you decided on using a travel agent, what the TA brings to the table in terms of experience and in peace of mind- use some of the posts on the forum. It'll clear up any misconceptions and ease any stress!

              TA Jennifer

              #10 JenniferSS

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                Posted 12 February 2008 - 06:08 PM

                Quote:
                Originally Posted by starchild
                For any of our TA's...I've had 2 issues with my TA, maybe you can clarify?

                1. The package price for air/hotel/transfers I get from her is roughly $100 more than what I've found online, at a few different sites. I also got an online quote that is cheaper with private transfers as opposed to the group van type the TA quoted me - do you think that is her commission factored in? No big deal but it got me curious as to how commission works because she isn't doing it for free.

                2. I want to fly into airport A, stay a few nights, drive to point B, stay a few nights, and fly home out of airport C (which is closest to point B). The TA told me I can't do that, I need to do RT out of the same airport. After little investigating I found that I can book the flights I want myself online or directly through the airlines, so is it that her suppliers don't do that? Just wondering why she wouldn't book the flights I asked for, even if she had to call the airline directly rather than go through her wholesaler.

                Gosh after reading that I may need a new TA....wink wink

                Just trying to clarify, thanks :o)
                Hello !

                Commission is paid for by suppliers or hotel- usually we get nada, zip, zilch from published airfare or transfers- however we still service that portion of the booking if it is a package. I don't think it is her commission that made the diffrence- see post above for some examples of why their may be differences in price.

                One other reason I can think of is their may have been a joint marketing effort between supplier A and resort B that results in a sale price that is only available to that supplier.

                Number two - Not sure what the issue may have been- many suppliers will not allow us to book it that way and we would need to book the components seperately (most will charge an additional fee for this so as we are pad for our time - unfortunately as much as we love our clients we can't work for free!)

                Ta Jennifer




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