Love them or hate them – nearly everyone has a story to tell about an experience they had with a Travel Agent. I’ve seen customers gushing with praise and showering their consultants with chocolates and booze – I’ve also seen them teeming with anger and hurling abuse like a bratty Australian tennis player.
Booking travel can be quite emotional for a lot of customers (and Agents) depending on the nature of the trip. Last minute airfares for instance are rarely booked for a good reason, with the illness or death of a family member being a likely occasion for a rushed visit to the local Travel Agency.
Then there are weddings, honeymoons, babymoons, anniversaries, birthdays, adoptions and One Direction concerts. The list goes on. You get the point – expectations are high – with the final result often depending on the level of skill, dedication, experience and care factor shown by your Travel Agent.
But, if can keep your emotions to a dull roar and use a few proven tactics, then you’ll find that the end result will be a win-win and you’ll come back a happy customer.
I’ve spent nearly fifteen years booking my own trips around the world; with eight of those working behind the desk at one of Australia’s most successful travel retailers. So I have a pretty good idea of how to get the best result for both parties. Try these tips when it’s time to book your next getaway.
1. Find the best person for the job
It won’t be hard to find a hotel or restaurant recommendation for Bali in any agency in Australia – we’ve all been a dozen times. It might be harder to find out how much a pack of instant noodles will cost on the Trans-Siberian Express and which currency to use. So shop around BEFORE you spend three hours with someone. Ask inside your local agency if any consultants have been to where you’re visiting. If nobody has, then ask the Manager if they could help find one in a nearby branch. Personal knowledge goes a long way and could be the difference between staying in the best little family run hotel in town or being stuck at the airport Holiday Inn.
2. It’s not a game of poker – be honest!
Agents should start off any consultation with a set of questions. We’re not trying to interrogate you – we’re trying to figure out the best product for your needs. If you just want a printed list of prices of every single airline flying to London for every date in August then go try this thing called the Internet. Be honest with what you want, your budget, flexibility and what you’ve found so far. This will save A LOT of time and get a better result for you in the end.
3. Book your entire itinerary with us
Found the same hotel $45 cheaper online? Great – tell your agent and get them to add it to your itinerary. We WILL generally match or better these prices. I’ve seen clients really muck things up because they’ve spread their bookings across three different agents, a website and their cousin Barry who knows a guy in Rome. Why not get everything done in one place? The agent will cross check all dates, bookings and confirmations. Also, if one little thing goes wrong – like a delayed or cancelled flight – do you want to rearrange the entire rest of your trip? Or go for a cocktail? Let your agent do the legwork!
4. Want a discount? Here’s how to get one
If we’ve found you a $49 fare to the Gold Coast don’t ask for some off the top – it’s just rude. Discounts almost always come from our commission (commissions are paid to us by suppliers, not the customer!), which can be really low on some products – especially airfares. However, everything changes if you’re booking a 21-day European tour, return airfares, travel insurance and a few hotels. Ask your agent if they can do any better and offer to pay in full earlier – we get paid when you pay in full. Have three mates that want to join you? Book it together and ask nicely for a group rate! Also, remember – if your agent likes you then you’re much more likely to get hooked up – so don’t be a jerk.
5. Put your money where your mouth is
We know you shop around – that’s perfectly fine. We also get paid on what we sell, not quote – meaning that any work we do without getting the booking is lost time and wages, which means that trip to Hawaii might not happen for us, which means unhappy Travel Agent. If you reach a level of trust with your agent and think they’re the right person for the job then throw a couple hundred bucks down to GUARANTEE THEIR SERVICE. Deposits are generally flexible, which means if you change your mind and want to go to Mexico instead of Perth; or want to lower your budget on hotels – that’s fine! When your agent knows that you’ve 100% committed to booking with them, then their service level gets turned up to maximum. You’ll be a top priority customer.
6. Give us some feedback
Loved the tour we recommended? Tell us. Hated the hotel? Tell us. We thrive on feedback – and it’s what it takes for us to weed out the bad products from the good ones. You never know, your agent might even throw a $100 credit your way for your next booking. I’ve found the more trips I book for a client, the better I can do for them on the next one because I get to know their tastes.
7. Be loyal – but make sure you keep us on our toes
A repeat customer will receive great service, fantastic recommendations and maybe even the occasional bottle of chilled champagne waiting on arrival in their hotel room. We reward loyalty. However, it’s always a good idea to check our prices against a competitor every now and then just to keep us honest. This will make sure we don’t get complacent with a sure-thing client.
Try to remember that Travel Agents are humans too. We can make mistakes, but they can generally be fixed quickly whereas if you booked online you might not be able to call somebody to smooth things over for you.
Do you have any amazing stories you’d like to share about your experience with a Travel Agent? Leave them below!