Dear Travel Agent,
I will keep shouting and screaming until everyone listens! The difference between Travel Agents and Search Engines is that WE CARE!
Yes, we care! We will talk about every detail of each traveler’s trip. We can share our passion and enthusiasm. We can make sure our clients understand every aspect of their itinerary, and make sure all of their wishes come true during their trip. We can request their favorite meals for each part of the trip, and when necessary, explain that they are Vegan, but at the same time they are gluten free. This is because we are humans dealing with other humans, and not machines. We can make sure that a certain couple gets separate beds (with a preference for one queen-size bed each). We can listen to their fears and worries. We can answer questions about vaccines and visas, and make sure that even though one passenger was born in Canada and the other was born in Bermuda, do all the research to figure out who needs what to get into the UAE.
Search engines just can’t and don’t do these things, and the worst part is, they make a traveler feel that they are on his/her own.
I have been traveling for over 29 years, and have visited 71 countries and counting (in May I am leaving for Cuba). I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a person fighting with the poor manager of a hotel because s/he was sure that the online booking said that breakfast was included. The manager must explain over and over again that breakfast is included, but only the cold foods (not the hot stuff), and that the taxes on breakfast are not included. Meanwhile, my group is enjoying a delicious breakfast and does not have to be bothered with taxes, or the cappuccino they just ordered; they just watch the disagreement going on at the next table.
The same thing happens again at check out time. We only have to return keys, while watching the general manager trying to explain to an angry guest that ONLY the reservation was made online, but the payment needs to be taken care of at that moment. The upset traveler swears that they have already paid; they even remember the money being taken from their account. They then promise loudly to leave a bad review of the hotel on TripAdvisor.
I laugh; honestly I do, because the hotel could have saved itself from bad reviews by using only travel agents. By the same token, smart travelers can save themselves a lot of aggravation by only booking travel with travel agents. The fact is, hotels feel that they need to compete online with other hotels, and cheap travelers are thinking that they will save money by booking directly through a search engine.
In my opinion, what the search engines are doing is a big favor to all travel agents. They are pre-qualifying travelers for travel agents. The cheap ones will always waste travel agents’ time. They will “copy” and “paste” itineraries, looking for the cheapest travel agent in town, or try to create the same itinerary by themselves on the internet. Who needs those clients?
Smart travelers understand that a travel agent’s service is like that of a good hairdresser or accountant. They know that in the end, they will have a great time, stress free, like beautiful hair done by a professional hairdresser, or having their taxes done right on April 15th by a good accountant. Only professionals provide outstanding service and travel agents deserve to be recognized for it!
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