What if I told you that travel agents aren’t in competition with online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia or Trip Advisor. Would you be surprised? These internet giants certainly have changed the playing field in the travel industry, but studies show that travelers who utilize the expertise of a travel agent are far better off for it. This week we lay out exactly how OTAs operate, and why calling up your friendly travel agent still gives you the edge.
The OTA business model. When they started, online travel booking sites relied heavily on ample off-peak inventory, empty seats on planes and vacant hotel rooms to offer discounts, and it generally worked. As time went on, suppliers smartened up by not allowing OTAs to offer prices lower than what the traveler could find directly on the brand site. Some vendors, such as Southwest Airlines, won’t even sell to OTAs at all. So, to remain profitable, OTAs increasingly use your data to steer you to spend money on the site. This includes creating a sense of urgency (“only 2 rooms left at this price!”) and offering limited choices based on what they believe you’ll most likely purchase.
On the flip side, here’s what a living, breathing, human travel agents can offer:
Benefits of expert research. When starting to plan a vacation, half of people don’t have a specific destination in mind. With deep and reliable industry connections, travel agents know how to steer you to the perfect getaway, ensuring you get the most value possible. Group travel can be particularly tricky, and we have the ability to analyze a wide range of options, filtering through them quickly to build the perfect vacation package.
Over $1,000 in savings. Did you know that when planning a trip, the average person visits over 140 websites, spending 23 hours of time? With an average wage, that’s about $600 in time spent planning and booking instead of letting a knowledgeable travel agent take the reins. Yikes! There’s even more savings in the vacation itself. Instead of getting stung by fine print, limited options, and hidden fees which are common online, studies show a travel agent saves clients about $425 per vacation over them going it alone. In total that’s over $1000 in savings!
Client satisfaction. We all love to save money, but it goes much more beyond that. Travel agents will genuinely look out for you and can step in when things go awry. We can leverage vendor relationships to provide the best customer service possible, which oftentimes includes added perks that would otherwise be unavailable to you. Travel agents also have the ability to place a price hold on most items for at least 24 hours so you aren’t pressured into buying something you’ll regret. OTA prices fluctuate by the minute and might even change before you reach checkout! The point is, folks come back to travel agents time and time again because of the personal touch we can provide that a website can’t.
Not only will travel agents save you time, money and stress during the planning and booking process, we’ll also help create a more satisfying and relaxing travel experience during the trip itself. Isn’t that the entire purpose of taking that much-needed getaway?