It’s a bit of a sparring match between those who prefer to use travel agents and those who prefer not to. Though some travelers may think that using a travel agent is more personal, it’s actually as impersonal as using the internet. Just because a travel agent is a person doesn’t mean they are more trustworthy than your laptop. We think the best way to travel is from personal recommendations, from people that you know and trust. It’s why we created Mulu – a place where you can share experiences between friends, between travelers, and between people that have actually experienced places you want to visit. A place where you can get inspired, a place where it’s truly a personalized approach to planning your next trip. Still need more convincing that travel agents are not as personal as you think? Here’s 7 things that travel agents never tell you.
1. We’re Not Experts
The common thought is that travel agents are well-traveled, experts in their field, know the difference between a 3 star hotel and a 5 star hotel, and have inside knowledge to destinations around the world. True, some are well-traveled but most are experts on how to organize a holiday as opposed to planning one. Most of them get information the same way you would if you were planning a trip – TripAdvisor, Wikipedia, Google searches, Yelp. All impersonal sources. Thus, their “personal” recommendations are no better than the impersonal ones you could find on your own. Remember, they are in sales, and they may make recommendations based on secondhand information to make a sale.
2. We Don’t Have Access to More Travel Options Than You Do
A common thought is that travel agents have access to all the airlines, tours, hotels, and booking engines. That they can create the best itinerary based on everything available. Not true. Their choices are limited to the suppliers the travel agent works with. Many boutique hotels and low cost airlines do not use travel agents because they paying a commission to agencies would put a serious dent in their profit margin. So when you ask for the lowest airfare, you are only getting the lowest air fair from the airlines that are available to the agent.
3. We Substantially Mark Up the Price of Your Holiday
Remember, travel agents are salespeople. They want to make money. And in doing so, we’ll mark up the price of your vacation wherever possible. The average commission range for the majority of travel book is 10 to 18 percent. For example, if you book a hotel through an agent as opposed to the hotel’s website, you might pay as much as 25 percent more. Same with airlines. Some agencies have a 25 percent markup, where if you booked through Expedia, it would be substantially less.
4. We Will Charge You More for Tours
Travel agents most certainly will charge you a substantial amount more if you book day trips and tours through them. Even transport charges to and from the airport are all marked up so as to increase the bottom line of an agent’s commission. Plus, your not getting personal recommendations. This is one of the best things about Mulu – you get personal recommendations from friends who have actually experienced what you are looking for.
5. Why We Really Want to Know Your Budget
Again, a travel agent is a salesperson. One of the first questions a travel agent will ask you is your budget. This tells the travel agents the type of client you may be and what your standards are insofar as airlines and accommodations to sell you. This will also help them determine their profit margins. They also may take advantage business travelers, who have disposable income, or first-time travelers who have never traveled abroad.
6. Online Travel Sites Offer Cancellation Policies and Refunds
This is true. If you book online, say, through Expedia, you will be offered a full refund or a partial refund if you cancel a trip. Some airlines charge fees, some you can negotiate with a voucher. A travel agent is not your advocate if you cancel a trip. Thus, they are not going to tell you about these policies because their commission would seriously be in jeopardy. Their role is to make money and make sure you don’t change your plans.
7. We Don’t Tell You About Our Service Fees
This is where travel agents show their true colors. This impersonal approach is only used to increase their commission. The worst part about it is agents won’t usually tell you about the services fees. What they do is add it to the cost of your accommodations, airfare, tours, or package price. And if you do decide to cancel a sale, a cancellation will most likely be largely inflated so they can recoup enough money from fees to cover profits they may lose on the sale on the travel package.