Travel Agents

Have agents “gone the way of the dinosaurs”?

Hannah Edensor

New data has shown that despite the rise of OTAs and other disruptive competitors, brick-and-mortar travel agents are regaining momentum, especially in the luxury market.

The stats from payment processing firm, Worldpay, were shared on US site, CNBC, and suggested that bookings on online like including Expedia and Kayak increased four per cent in 2016.

And while the figures suggest bookings made through traditional agencies might never return to pre-internet levels, it’s the big trips where agents make their money.

Speaking to Travel+Leisure Special Projects Editor, Jacqueline Gifford, CNBC suggested a lot of people think agents have “gone the way of the dinosaurs”.

But Gifford strongly stated “that’s just not the case”.

Gifford said that when certain online sites like Expedia popped up, they became the “one-stop shop” to book a trip.

“But the reality is, sometimes it’s really helpful to go to a person.

“When you’re planning a complicated itinerary, a pricey trip, or going to a far-flung corner of the world, it’s really helpful to go to an agent.”

Gifford also said multiple reservations and groups are another big reason to visit a travel agent.

“It’s great to go to them to pick their brain,” she added.

On the topic of service fees, Gifford said while some agents charge and some don’t, “you have to remember you’re paying them for their time and expertise.

“They are, after all, planning this very special trip for you… and they will save you money in the long run.

“[Agents] get alerts on special deals that ordinary people don’t have access to.”

Gifford conceded that if the trip you’re planning is “fairly straight forward – just a hotel room and flights”, then sometimes it’s easier to go it alone.

“But if it’s more complicated, you should definitely go with an agent.”

This comes after industry stalwart, Gil McLachlan, suggested that OTAs succeed in the smaller bookings, but once a client hits the $5000 mark, they tend to prefer real-world, experienced agents who can take care of everything.

The key message appears to be that while OTAs make it easy and convenient to book quickly and seamlessly, travel agents bring their own knowledge, connections, and insider tips to a booking that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.


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