A few years ago newspapers were running stories about the imminent death of the travel agent profession since people could find everything on the internet.
Fast forward about five years and travel agents are thriving.
Why A Resurgence of Travel Agents
The reason is that travel agents know more than you do, they are better connected than you are, they have access to perks you can’t get on your own AND yes they can often beat the airline prices you find online.
The buying power of their agency networks enable:
– free room upgrades
– hard to get restaurant reservations
– line passes for events, shows and theatres
– access to limited attendance exhibits
– private VIP tours
AND they have access to much cheaper Business Class airfares!
Not everyone taking a trip needs a travel agent. The benefits of using a professional travel increase as your travel become more luxurious, expensive, specialized and last minute. If you are looking for a cheap flight to Florida or a quick trip to Vegas, you probably won’t have need of a travel agent.
But, if you are taking a last minute business class flight to Paris, want to stay in a nice suite at the Fairmont Paris and need to take a client to a Michelin star restaurant- some professional help might be required. That is if you want to stay within your company’s travel budget and policies.
Access to Special Deals
Many travel agents belong to professional networks called “consortias” that have agreements with luxury hotels that get their client’s complimentary upgrades. So while your company may only be willing to pay for a standard room at the Fairmont, your travel agent may get you that coveted junior suite.
These same “consortia” deals also enable agents to have access to many exclusive restaurants, so when you want to impress that all-important client with impossible to get restaurant reservations- your trusty travel agent may be able to do that for you.
For example, let’s assume that you do not have “elite status” on a particular airline that either you need to travel on for the Paris trip above, so that means you can’t get a complimentary space-available upgrade. Due to budget limitation, your company is unwilling to pay the high cost of a regular business class ticket. What’s a weary business traveler to do?
A good travel agent will have a handful of specialized travel wholesaler that they deal with called “airline ticket consolidators”. These are specialized companies that have airline contracts for un-published airline fares that allow them to sell the business or first class tickets that are up to 70% discounted from an airline’s published fares. Most consolidators do not sell to the public directly and require that you use a retail travel agency.
Special Insider Knowledge
In addition to working with airline ticket consolidators, good travel agents also know of any special promotions that an airline might be offering for business class or first class. Promotions that won’t show up in a casual search on an airlines web page. Two for one business class fares are a good example of these. Another example is called Y-Up fares. Y-Up fares are among the travel industry’s best-kept secrets – a good travel agent will be very familiar with them.
The more you know, the better off you are- and now you know why a great travel agent will become your accounting department’s best friend if you have last minute business travel.