It still surprises me, when I tell people what I do, and several respond by saying “Do people even use travel agents anymore?”. Despite the obvious rudeness of their response, I like to use it as an opportunity to talk about what I do and why I do it, and hopefully help them to realize the value in having a good travel agent.
Many people believe that booking with a travel agent costs more than booking your own travel. Many times, this is simply not the case, as your agent not only has access to many suppliers that they can scour for the best deals, but also because they might have the ability to price-match any identical deal you were to find. It is true that some agents do charge a small fee for their time (I, for the record, do not charge fees at this time), but many times that fee is more than off-set by the value they can provide both in price and customer service.
What most people don’t realize is that online booking engines such as Orbitz or Expedia, are simply just travel agents, without the personalized service. As a travel agent, I am paid a commission by the supplier when I sell their product. Orbitz or Expedia would be paid the same commission (or many times more) when you book with them. By choosing to use a good travel agent, not only are you maximizing your vacation dollar, and taking the stress out of the planning and travel processes, but you are also supporting a local small business.
As it reads in the article, these large companies not only have very little concern for their suppliers (such as the couple featured who had their hotel taken down Expedia), but they also wash their hands of any responsibility to you (the customer). If you have ever booked a hotel room from an online booking engine, you probably realized that you are usually given the worst room they have to offer—if you are lucky enough to get a room at all. Many times hotels will over-book, and push-out their low-end paying customers or downgrade them to a room below the category they purchased. In fact, the last hotel I booked through Orbitz actually had a Kleenex (not sure if it was used or not), shoved in the peep hole of the room (which was at the end of the hallway of the top floor and reeked of smoke). Don’t expect Orbitz or Expedia to be quick to advocate for you in these situations.
So the next time you are planning travel, do consider how you want to spend your vacation dollar, who you want to support, and who you want supporting you. A good travel agent works for you, and becomes as invested in your vacation as you are. We do this because we love it, and make sure to go the extra mile for our customers (which, after reading this article, I think it is safe to say that Expedia does not).