Today anyone with an internet connection can book a flight and piece together an itinerary. So why work with a travel agent?
Twenty-five years ago, SmartFlyer CEO Michael Holtz launched his company to provide top-tier travel planning services to clients at a time when airline tickets were only issued in-person, and navigating distant cities required industry know-how or a close friend who was willing to meet you at the airport. But as we all know, times have changed.
Today’s travel planners are pioneers in new ways, seeking out under-the-radar places and experiences that match clients’ wants and needs. Most importantly, agents offer first-hand knowledge of airlines, destinations and travel logistics that’s unmatched by any web algorithm.
We spoke with both agent and client to better understand the sometimes intangible, but real benefits to planning a trip with someone you can rely on every step of the way.
Agents help manage costs
“Travel agents have access to the lowest possible flight and hotel rates, we know where to find the best promotions, and we’re able to offer additional perks and amenities depending on where clients want to stay,” says Kimberly Gavin, a SmartFlyer travel advisor.
“It’s important to work with an agent who actively travels and understands not just travel trends, but market trends,” says Kyle Seltzer, a SmartFlyer agent with over a decade of hospitality experience. “You may have had a wonderful trip to a hotel years ago, but many factors can influence the outcome of a trip, from changes in hotel ownership or management, to changes at the destination itself – even fluctuations in currency can affect your experience.”
Your time is valuable (and agents respect this)
Kimberly: One of my earliest clients wanted to book a family trip to Switzerland, a hugely popular winter destination, over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday. But it wasn’t until November of the same year when she starting thinking about booking this two-week holiday simply because she hadn’t had the time to do it earlier.
After her friend referred her to me, we met in person to discuss her expectations for the trip in detail. I sent her the initial proposal the next day, and by the end of the week, I had booked everything. Her family had a fabulous time filled with snowshoes, horse-drawn carriage rides, chocolate and cheese tastings, and everything that one would consider quintessentially ‘Swiss.’ And I had a client for life.
Tangible & reliable travel assistance
From flight delays to cancellations and changes due to unexpected weather, there’s no crystal ball that can predict what will happen during travel. Agents know this and make themselves readily available to book new flights and offer alternatives for those times when a trip hits a snag.
Kyle: Working with a travel agent doesn’t only mean having someone contact hotels and making reservations for you – anyone can do that. Instead, I become the client’s best advocate and plan their trip as if I were in their shoes. This covers everything from creating a personalized schedule of activities, expediting through customs, or sourcing the best tours, restaurants, and cocktail bars. Plus, if a hotel is sold out, we’re able to “clear space” and create availability. It’s one of my favorite things to do, but the client has to be ready to act on it!
What should new clients look for in a travel agent?
Kimberly: Potential new clients should interview travel agents to ensure a good fit, just as you would with a doctor, lawyer, or therapist. A good agent will take into consideration how you like to travel, your preferred style of hotel and level of activity, and offer options based on the parameters that you set.
Kyle: Look for someone who has experience in your location of interest, and don’t underestimate a well-connected agent. SmartFlyer agents have resources to back them up, from industry clout to established partnerships with some of the world’s best hotels and destinations.
Last but not least, work with an agent who’s well-versed in the activities and experiences that you’re looking for, whether that’s culinary travel, boat tours, nightlife, or group travel, just to name a few. Most importantly, you should choose to work with someone who you feel a connection with.
How To Work With An Agent
Every agent-client relationship will be different, but in almost every case, communication is key. Here’s what to expect at the beginning:
- Specify your goals for the relationship
- Describe how you and your travel partner(s) like to travel
- Share the things that interest you, ie. culinary attractions, cultural experiences, sports, etc.
- Tell your agent which past trips were your favorite and why
- Remember that agents aren’t mind readers, so be sure to tell your agent what you love and don’t about your itinerary. The sooner you catch a flaw, the quicker she or he can learn your preferences and adjust course!
Don’t miss Why Work With a Travel Agent? from a client’s perspective. To work with Kimberly, Kyle or to discover more agents on our team, head over here.