Since the onset of travel bans and restrictions in the wake of COVID-19, travel agents across the country — and around the world — were recognized for being invaluable to their clients during a time of crisis.
Now that the dust has settled, we asked travel advisors to weigh in with their thoughts on what they offer that can’t be replicated by a direct booking. Here’s what they had to say.
“When people ask me this, I often list off a number of reasons, but to be honest, my only answer now is COVID-19,” McKenzie McMillan, a travel consultant with The Travel Group, Vancouver, tells Travel Courier. “When it comes to COVID-19, I think travel agents have more than justified their worth, with the thousands of travellers who have made safe journeys home, thanks to dedicated agents who jumped into action to serve their clients.”
Since the internet began to excel in travel bookings, he says travel agents have evolved from a tool for booking to experts in consulting.
“While OTAs may provide cheap deals, they can’t let you know what the best seat on the plane is or if you can make that 60-minute connection at Heathrow (spoiler alert — you can’t),” he adds. “Beyond background information that agents can supply, we also leverage our relationships with tour operators, hoteliers, and suppliers, to maximize our client’s investment. I have yet to see Captain Obvious get you the best room location, provide a welcome bottle of champagne, or an F&B credit.”
Similarly, Stephanie Mercredi, who runs a live travel agency with second year travel and tourism students at SAIT (Custom Travel Solutions) in Calgary, notes that what agents offer over an online booking has become pretty obvious over the last few months.
“Anyone who used a travel agent prior to COVID-19, has had someone to help them negotiate through all of the cancellations and how to move going forward,” she says. “For those that have booked themselves online, they need to do all the work themselves.”
For the full story, check out this week’s cover story in TRAVEL COURIER.