Yes, that’s right agents. You’re literally in vogue! The luxe fashion magazine has written a piece posing the very important questions: “Are we witnessing the return of the travel agent?”
The article, which cropped up last week and has been making waves around the industry, claims there’s a “fresh new crop of travel experts—more aptly described as travel designers—who offer resources far beyond the basics of organizing flights, lodging, and tours.
“These designers create trips that you can’t just book online, trips for travelers, not tourists. And discerning travelers, at that,” Vogue author, Jenn Rice, writes.
It’s garnered stacks of shares and comments on Vogue’s Facebook page, with plenty of the comments coming from agents who state they are indeed “travel designers”.
Just as we recently looked at whether agents have “gone the way of the dinosaurs”, and Insight Vacations CEO John Boulding promised agents would never be replaced by robots, this article assures readers that no, travel agents have not “gone the way of the television repairman or switchboard operator”.
“People want to see the world before it changes, and it’s changing fast,” Lia Batkin, cofounder of In the Know Experiences, tells Vogue.
“They want truly authentic, unique experiences.”
Suggesting that travellers want more than just the selfie at the Grand Canyon or Eiffel Tower, Vogue suggests it’s these bespoke travel experiences that have agents in demand.
“No longer is it about checking boxes at a major tourist hub. Rather, it’s about digging deeper into more mainstream destinations or going for lesser-known spots that can only really be accessed with expert assistance,” says Rice.
“Rather than traveling to Paris to see the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, for example, travelers might land at Charles de Gaulle and immediately be whisked away in a private car to taste back vintages in Bordeaux’s most storied cellars.
“Or a traveler might tell their designer they want to explore Bhutan, have two weeks, want to spend time hidden away in a cliffside monastery, and leave the details to them. These are the kinds of trips that can’t be planned with a quick visit to Expedia and TripAdvisor.”
Vogue’s Rice added that it’s not all about luxury travel and high price tags, but rather “people want a mix of high and low, and hire travel designers to point them toward the right hole-in-the-walls and local experiences”.
In her interview, Batkin added, “it almost becomes a badge of honor that you went on an amazing trip but did super-cool, under-the-radar, local-type things that weren’t super high end or expensive. It means that you’re a true traveler.”
The Vogue piece stated these “new travel agents” rely heavily on developing personal relationships with their clients in order to create these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, suggesting this planning period can take up to a few months to execute.
Jacada Travel’s Marketing Manager, Leila Al-Qattan, told Vogue, “We want to know what makes [the client’s] heart race, why they want to travel to that specific destination, and what their favorite moments have been in previous trips they’ve taken”.
Vogue claims these travel agents have their “feet on the ground” in hot locations to get the “inside scoop”, with agencies like Jacada Travel suggesting using agents who have intense experience in various destinations to sell the ultimate trip.
But, Rice writes, it “doesn’t stop once an itinerary is sent out”.
Rice says, “Jacada Travel, for example, has also sent food-obsessed clients destination-centric cookbooks prior to traveling or even curated a playlist of a client’s favorite songs to listen to in a private jet while chasing the northern lights”.
Jacada Travel’s Editorial Manager Heather Richardson added, “The designers who work in our Cape Town office will often go to meet their travelers for a coffee or drink during their time here, and if one of the team is traveling in the same place as a client, they’ll go out of their way to have a catch-up.
“It becomes a real relationship, which makes sense—travel is a very personal thing.”