How *Not* to Work with a Travel Agent


There’s plenty of travel advice on the internet today; in fact, the medium has opened up the communication channels, so you can research destinations, get advice and even see photos of your vacation destination. But, don’t believe everything you read on the internet; in fact there’s some downright bad advice floating around out there.

Case and point is an article I read last week containing some “accessible travel tips”. It included a few common sense tips, that weren’t bad, but just not real insightful; but it also included one piece of very bad advice.

Basically the author told readers to take along the phone number of a travel agent who specializes in accessible travel, and is located in the traveler’s destination city. That way, if the traveler runs into problems, with accessible hotel bookings, airport transfers or even van rentals while on holiday, the traveler will have a helpful resource at hand, if their own travel agent isn’t available.

This is wrong on so very many levels.

Firs off, even though a travel agent may be located in a specific city, that doesn’t mean they know anything about local tourism. In fact I know several accessible travel specialists who focus on Europe or cruises or Disney World, but who are clueless about the accessibility to the sights and accommodations in their own city. And why should they be up on it; after all, it’s just not something they sell, so why should they research it?

More important, it’s unfair to any travel agent to just assume they will help you out of the goodness of their heart. It’s like stopping at a garage in an unfamiliar town and expecting the mechanic to fix your flat tire for free, just because he is a mechanic. It’s not like travel agents are horrible people, but they do have a business to run. We all do.

And from what I’ve seen of the travel business it’s all very competitive. These professionals usually don’t have a big margin, and they are all clamoring for the same clients. Sure, there are some professional alliances within the group, but I have to say that for the most part it’s kind of a cut throat industry. Not all travel agents are best friends with one another; in fact there are some fierce rivalries out there. And for all you know, you may be knocking on the door of your own travel agent’s biggest competitor.

And the travel agents I interviewed for this blog agree. Don’t do it!!

Of course, looking ahead and planning for those “what-if” situations is a good thing; so with that in mind I do have an alternative suggestion.

When you go over your final itinerary with your travel agent, ask if they will be available on your travel day (which is when most problems arise). Most professionals will say yes; after all they are not just selling travel, they are selling a service. But to be on the safe side, you might also ask if your travel agent has a local contact, just in case. Many do; in fact it’s usually it’s the local tour operator, not a competing travel agency.

So plan ahead, but so it the right way. Work with your travel agent, because in the long run that will produce the best results.