The Evolution of the Travel Agent

Today, Travel On A Dream turns six years old.  A lot has changed in the last six years and we continue to change as necessary to meet the demands of our clients.  We have sent thousands of clients on vacation, helping them plan the details of their trips.  We have helped to plan countless vacations as if they were our own, getting excited every step of the way along with you.  We have received many photos and stories telling us the fun you all had, many bringing us tears — of joy!  We have been there with you when things didn’t go as planned and shared in those feelings as well.  You have all been a part of our family and we wouldn’t be where we are today without you.

I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss where we have come as an industry and where we are going.

Before the internet became popular, nearly everyone who traveled used a travel agent.  It’s what you did.  Some may have called an airline or cruise line direct, but most used a travel agent.  Then along came the internet.  As people got more familiar with it, it was fun to search for everything you could think of.  Vacations were no exception.  Instead of having more and more ads in magazines and on television, travel companies were starting to go to the internet more with banner ads, pop ups, etc.  You could book anything practically in an instant.

For many though, a travel agent was the only way to go.  We found some clients coming to us, but instead of not knowing where to start, they pretty much had decided due to the research done before coming to us.  During this time, we also had a lot of folks questioning “travel agents still exist?”  After all, you can just go online and book everything, right?

While you certainly can, what we have discovered is that there is so much information out there right now, the decision-making process has once again made it more difficult for folks planning their trips.  Everyone reviews their trips, their destinations, hotels, cruise ships, meals, etc.  You can watch videos of wonderful trips, and horrifying ones.  I read two reviews once from the exact same sailing where one person said “It rained the entire trip.” while the second person said “the weather was great”.  How can two people on the exact same trip have two totally different experiences?

It’s simple.  Everyone experiences things in their own way.  The first person who complained about the rain may have been someone who spends a lot of time at the pool during a cruise.  Since it was raining most of the days, they had to find other things to do.  The second person may have enjoyed going to activities indoors, the casino, shopping, napping, etc.  They may not have gone on deck at all during the rain and never even noticed that it did rain.

A light sleeper will complain about the noise in a particular hotel room location while a heavy sleeper may never notice it.

What a travel agent does is look at the travel plans from a more objective and professional standpoint.  A particular cruise line might not be right for myself as an individual, but as a professional, I can evaluate my client’s needs, personality, likes and dislikes and recommend that cruise line if it is a good fit for them.  I wouldn’t recommend a family with children who normally love the children’s programming to a cruise line that doesn’t have activities for the kids.  Likewise, a couple who doesn’t want to be around children on vacation would not be recommended to go on several lines due to the prevalence of children onboard.  That doesn’t mean that the cruise lines not mentioned are no good for anyone, it is my job to know who they are good for.

Today, we are finding more people reaching out to us because we are experts in the destination, type of travel, etc.  We give a mostly unbiased opinion and fit you with the right vacation.  At times this comes at a cost to you, our client, due to the type of travel we are booking for you, but many times there is no additional cost.  We have found though that many of our clients put a higher value on their time and put their trust in our expertise to help them sort out all the options and plan the best vacation possible for their needs.  At times, we have also surprised clients with lower pricing than they are able to get on their own.  We can routinely do this with international airfare, hotels and even cruises.

Another way to look at this is the process itself.  To find a vacation package for yourself, you go to the internet and start your search.  If you are average, you will plan one to two trips a year.  This means that one or two times a year, you are actively searching for the best options for your family.  Travel professionals daily are looking for travel plans for someone.  If I handle only one booking per day, that’s 365 plans a year!  Things are changing on a regular basis online, so again, if you are only doing one or two a year, you may be learning a whole new way to book the next time you are looking at a vacation.

When you have the right travel professional on your team, the process never changes.  My clients contact me and tell me what they want.  In many cases, I have all of their information on file and just need to verify if things have changed.  If your preferred cruise line changed their website since you last booked a cruise, chances are good that I’ve already booked more than a dozen cruises with the new site and know my way around.  If you are planning to go to an area where there are travel warnings or advice you should get, I’ve probably already given the same advice to a handful of travelers.  The beauty of this is that you can still do your research if you want, but the time constraints and pressure are off you.

Travel agents are still around and we are busier than ever, helping to make dreams come true for many.

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