Why Work With a Travel Agent?

Contributed By Kyle Seltzer

Today, anyone with an internet connection can book a flight and piece together an itinerary. So, why work with a travel agent?

Modern-day travel planners are pioneers in new ways, seeking out under-the-radar places and experiences that match clients’ unique wants and needs. Most importantly, agents offer first-hand knowledge of airlines, destinations, and travel logistics on a personalized level unmatched by any web algorithm. In this series, we speak with both agents and clients to better understand the sometimes intangible, but real benefits to planning a trip with someone you can rely on every step of the way. Meet Kyle Seltzer, a Miami-based agent with over a decade of hospitality experience as we learn how his special touch makes clients’ trips unforgettable.

Insider access

I become the client’s best advocate and plan their trip as if I were in their shoes.

Working with a travel agent doesn’t only mean having someone contact hotels and make 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, ensuring they are expedited through customs upon arrival as well as 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!

As opposed to niching down in a particular region or type of travel, it’s often said that SmartFlyer travel advisors specialize in their clients. What does the process of getting to know a client – to the extent that you can anticipate their unique preferences – look like?

…my priority is creating a safe and understanding environment where my clients’ needs, desires, quirks, annoyances, frustrations, and happiness can be are freely communicated, understood, and executed.

The “getting to know you” process is a lifelong journey on both sides. Whether an agent launches their business with an immediate network of clients or is organically building business through hustle, the agent-client relationship is an entirely new horizon. This is why it’s important to find someone you connect with viscerally, a dynamic where all parties are free to express themselves, articulate pet peeves, avoid walking on eggshells and operate with complete transparency. Of course, traveling to emerging destinations, experiencing exciting new products, reinforcing trust and establishing informed contacts are all essential to the effectiveness of any agent; however, what makes an advisor truly stellar, and remains my priority, is creating a safe and understanding environment where my clients’ needs, desires, quirks, annoyances, frustrations, and happiness can be freely communicated, understood, and executed. Keeping in mind that life changes, people change, family dynamics change, environments change…I want to be the person with whom they are willing to work through these changes without hesitation or concern.

Always up-to-date

It’s important to work with an agent who actively scouts destinations and understands not only travel trends, but market trends as well. You may have had a wonderful stay at a hotel years ago, but many factors can influence the outcome of a trip, so it’s up to an agent to stay on top of these nuances. These changes can range in hotel ownership or management to changes in the destination itself – even fluctuations in currency can affect your experience. To dig into that even further, no matter how knowledgeable your advisor is, the nature of travel is that the status quo is forever changing. From flight delays to cancellations to changes due to unexpected weather and even potential health threats, there’s no crystal ball that can predict what will happen during travel. Agents understand this and make themselves readily available to offer alternatives for those times when a trip hits a snag.

Our value comes in when we can offer out-of-the box recommendations…the ones that aren’t ‘Google-able’ but instead come from years of honing your craft. Can you share more on how creativity plays a role in being effective in your role as a trip designer?

I want my clients to be the leader of the pack telling their friends about the new spot, not the followers.

I think creativity can be unleashed once you have a very fluid, and mutually trusting, working relationship. The client has to be willing to let their guard down a bit and trust the process as much as the agent needs to put aside their own personal opinions to create an open and intuitive platform for collaboration. This isn’t always easy. To build on that, a lot of Americans are skeptical about certain parts of the world that are incredibly safe and prosperous so I also think it’s important for us, as advisors, to point out the facts and instill faith in certain destinations. Ultimately, what it comes down to is anticipating the needs, questions, concerns, and desires of the client. It’s our duty to do the homework on the destination, perceive the right fit(s), anticipate the next five steps, and know the client better than they know themselves.

I am fortunate to have worked with some of my most trusted clients for 5+ years and now I would love the opportunity to present them a platform in building two to five-year travel plans, especially as families grow and those coveted spots around the world become even more exclusive. I want my clients to be the leader of the pack telling their friends about the new spot, not the followers. There is so much perspective for us all to gain on humanity and I want to be a part of that endeavor… I want to be a catalyst who gives my clients permission to live life to the fullest!

What to Look For

Look for someone who has experience in your location of interest and don’t underestimate a well-connected agent; SmartFlyer advisors 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 with who you feel a connection because it’s this genuine chemistry that will ensure the relationship works on both sides.

The nature of this business is that it’s unpredictable. Sometimes, even the best-laid plans need to be revised due to last-minute challenges. Right now, we’re seeing this on a large scale with coronavirus. When someone works with a travel advisor, how do you act as their advocate and ensure they are empowered to travel in a way they feel most comfortable?

I can only speak for myself, my team, and the SmartFlyer collective – but we care about our clients and our suppliers care about us…in times like these, I am my clients’ greatest advocate and knowing how to intelligently navigate the travel channels will always benefit my clients. We are an insurance plan on top of any travel insurance plan. Help us help you!

Why Work With A Travel Agent? Covered. So now, how?

Every agent-client relationship will be different, but in almost every case, communication is key. Here’s what to expect at the beginning:

  1. Specify your goals for the relationship
  2. Describe how you and your travel partner(s) like to travel
  3. Share the things that interest you, (ie. culinary attractions, cultural experiences, sports, etc.)
  4. Tell your agent which past trips and hotel stays were your favorite and why – this will give an agent a better idea on your preferences
  5. Remember that agents aren’t mind-readers, so be sure to tell your advisor 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 accordingly

Lastly, what do you look for when taking on a new client?

To me, it’s vital that clients are interested in establishing long-term relationships – Creating Open Doors across all platforms – and becoming family to a certain extent. I’m looking to work with travelers who want to explore the world on a deeper level – who are willing to let their guard down, uncover new truths about the world and oneself, and above all, eager to share the world with their friends and families. These are the factors that allow for a harmonious contribution toward sustainable and responsible tourism. I wish to be a part of that endeavor along with my clients wholeheartedly.

To work with Kyle, or to discover more agents on our team, head over here.

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