Before the internet, when people wanted to travel, they used a travel agency. Travel agents would book your flights, hotels & resort stays, car rental, restaurants, and everything in between. Those planning for their honeymoon also booked their romantic getaway and special arrangements through a travel agency. They were a reliable source of business simply because they got you the deals you couldn’t find.
Over the years, online booking websites rose and became more popular. All those sites have made it easy for travelers to cut out the travel agent and plan their trips by booking directly with airlines and hotels (or as in recent days, with locals like in Airbnb). There are also so many websites offering exclusive deals helping us find cheap airfares and hotel rates, too, to travel websites and blogs telling us what to see and do. So, does it make sense to use a travel agent anymore?
I am one of those who believe in the role of travel agents and DMC’s (destination management companies) and their importance in facilitating travel arrangements. In a meeting, I attended not long before this pandemic, once said that the role of travel agents will finish in a few years from now and that they will disappear eventually. I strongly disagreed with this statement and still do. Many like to do their travel arrangements and bookings online, yet some still want the personalized touch of their agency. They would appreciate talking, communicating, and being served by a professional advisor who would make recommendations, suggestions, etc…
In the mid-90s, when I was in hotels, the CEO of our hotel chain and a meeting in Norway said, and I quote; “the travel business will be dependable on online, and travel agents will not be there,” end of quote. He was right to a certain extend. Lots of changes happened to the travel industry and technology. Yet, after 30 years, we do see those travel agents and DMC’s are still there, playing an essential role in serving travelers, promoting destinations, and creating itineraries and experiences out of the experience.
Travel agents are also important if you consider an elaborate trip, planning a honeymoon, or traveling in a group. They have agreements and deals with Tour operators, and service providers solo consumers don’t, especially when it comes to tours, flights, cruises, and tailor-made trips.
It’s effortless to book a flight from Hong Kong to London today, and you can do this online and add maybe a hotel and a transfer if that is all you want. But if you’re looking for flights for a group or a flight itinerary like Hong Kong – Bangkok – Dubai – Amman – Istanbul – Prague – Amsterdam – London and include hotels, site-seeing, transfers, tours, dinners, then a travel agent, DMC would be of great help.
Travel agents and DMC’s are also ideal for people who don’t want to handle a trip themselves. They offer them peace of mind. Travel agents are still used for expert guidance, personalized travels, and to save time. The internet has made it easier for us to search for our perfect vacation destination or the hotel we wish to stay in. Still, it’s also confusing with overloads of information and time-consuming. People want someone to advise them to tell them, “no, I recommend this instead,” and to explain travel arrangements, insurance, passport requirements, visas, self-drives in foreign countries, customs, and cultures.
I’m not surprised that travel agents have seen a rise in usage in some markets during the last few years, especially those taking trips to a destination for the first time. Travel agencies, DMC’s greatest assets are its unique relationships with their clients and suppliers, their ability to problem-solve for their clients in real-time, 24/7, and their role in handling group travel. When you’re in trouble, there is no substitute for a travel agent, DMC. They can save you time and money when you are in an emergency, especially in hard times as we face today. I would personally book my travel with such a company who will look after me during my trip to make sure everything is fine and feed me with all the appropriate advisories.
In many destinations, travel agencies, DMC’s play significant roles in promotion and marketing. The more considerable marketing effort is indeed made through the DMO’s (Destination Marketing Organization) in addition to online agreements and support, yet, the one to one approach and relationships with tour operators and the creative way in building itineraries and suggesting programs and experiences promote and sell the destination is done through the local travel agents and DMC’s. When an agency, a DMC operates, they will move the entire industry chain by booking transportation, hotels, guides, restaurants, etc.
Their services add for sure to the reputation of your destination as well. If one agency offered a lousy experience, clients will go back and say, we had a terrible experience in XYZ destination. Therefore, they invest a lot in training their staff and teams to offer top services to ensure positive feedback and, eventually, more business.
Travel agents, DMC’s look after clients from the minute they start their trip, tracing them through their flights to arrive, greeting them at the airports, assisting them with their visas, luggage, arranging their transfers to their hotels. You will find them there waiting for you to ensure smooth check-in in your selected room, which is inspected before-hand. They will arrange your tour guides, transportation, restaurants, tours, and excursions according to what has been agreed upon. Add on services are also available on the spot if you desire.
Travelers in many markets still depend on travel agencies and DMC’s to book their trips. They might do their first search on the internet, but prefer to go and book with their reliable agent. This does not under-estimate the importance of Online Booking platforms. If you’re looking for a simple, clear trip, yes, you can book it online through different travel platforms. I want to say those travel agents and DMC’s are essential, are very important to have in our markets, and support the success of our destinations and industry.
As a business traveler or even if I want to take a trip at leisure, and if I travel today, with the Covid-19 in place, I would book my journey through a travel agency, DMC. I want to have a point of contact for all of my requirements and needs.
When a vaccine is found, and travel goes back to normal, I will book through a travel agency, DMC, because my travel schedule is always changing.
Have a good day.
”Adel M. AminTravel & Tourism Expert // Former Deputy Managing Director - Jordan Tourism Board