DeWitt: Why use a travel agent to plan your trip?

Why use a travel agent?

A great question. When I first started Anchor and Away Travel, I was introduced to the president of the local Chamber of Commerce whose first comment was, “I didn’t know travel agencies still existed.”

While she was correct in that travel agencies dropped from a high of 124,000 in 2000 to around 74,000 in 2014, the number is once again rising. Putting all statistics aside, I can assure you travel agents are thriving because they serve several critical roles unanswered by self-booking.

The past two weeks’ weather emergencies have reminded me of the important role travel agencies play in times of crisis. Hurricane Harvey tore through Houston, and the massive destruction that Hurricane Irma is creating has affected hundreds of thousands of people. Flights have been cancelled, resorts closed, cruise ship itineraries changed or cancelled. I have received minute by minute news from multiple travel resources to be an invaluable help to my traveling clients.

My role as their travel advocate/troubleshooter has saved them worry and time and, most importantly, helped them to return home safely. Travel is easy to plan using the internet, but if you run into trouble, Expedia or Yahoo will not be there to help you.

From a financial standpoint, travel research proves an agent can save 10 to 17 percent off your vacation. I own a Dream Vacations travel franchise. With over 1,000 franchises nationwide, I have buying power and opportunities for savings on destinations, cruise, or all-inclusive resort that would be unavailable to you. In the same sense, when there is a problem with a travel product, travel suppliers are more likely to respond to me because of the relationship I’ve built and the future business I represent to them.

“The internet is for looking, travel agents are for booking.” There are too many offers and too many reviews on the internet. When planning a Disney Vacation, just knowing when to book, what to book and how to save money is a full-time job with over 500 Facebook groups giving advice.

Perhaps surprisingly, Millennials are using travel agencies the most because they realize how time intensive it is to research travel destinations, hotels, and resorts. Saving time is important, and the internet may be perfect if you are staying in budget accommodations and are not looking to pre-plan activities or transportation. Anything outside of that, use an agent.

Product and destination education is an important part of my job. I regularly put six to 10 hours a week in classes learning new products and destinations, and work to match the best product with my clients. I had a friend tell me she wished her husband had used a travel agent for their anniversary. He surprised her and scheduled a cruise.

While it was a great thought, she ended up at the pool surrounded by college students celebrating spring break and having drinking contests. As an experienced agent, I would have suggested a more adult-oriented cruise line to be celebrate their special day. Travel agents travel — and learn. We travel, we know. We can get you head of the line tours at the Vatican and the Louvre. It’s our job.

Using a travel agent costs you nothing, because most travel agents work on commission. Many specialized travel agents charge a consulting fee based on time involved to plan and schedule your vacation.

My agency has chosen not to charge a fee. My time is the my most valuable asset, and when I invest my time and my extensive knowledge to research the best vacation options for you and my family, I have the reasonable expectations that you will book through me. While my passion is travel, I expect to run a “for profit” business.

Travel agents can be your best traveling partners, don’t travel without us.

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By Marci DeWitt

Contributing Columnist

Marci DeWitt owns a local travel agency, Anchor and Away Travel, a Dream Vacations franchise. She can be reached by email at [email protected]