A travel agent is an individual who offers necessary services required by tourists and visitors of a town, city or country.
They mainly take care of things like hotel reservations, transportation, tours, and even cool meal spots as required by their clients. These people are usually natives of that city, so they are aware of all the nooks and crannies that search engines may overlook. A travel agent may even help you get good deals if they like you.
Getting a good travel agent can be a hassle. Travel agencies exist; however, some may always be busy, have only few hands on deck to meet demand, or may just be incompetent. That said, the number of travel agents have become fewer over the last decade. This is because of the obvious increase in the usage of smartphones, optimised online functions and other online services. For example, Uber can completely eliminate the need for the transportation services that can be provided by a travel agent; you can also book flights yourself online.
Still, many exist across different parts of the world to help you out here and there. You just need to know how to find them. The following are five simple ways you can get a travel agent.
Use the internet
The internet is the best place to find a travel agent. It is however the trickiest. When using the internet to find anything, it is normal to filter all the information we find to suit what exactly we want. In the same way, when using the internet to find travel agents, we must take caution so we do not wind up in deeper issues.
One great site that connects travellers and tourists alike to a vast number of travel agents or travel advisors is virtuoso.com. There are over 350 agencies that belong to Virtuoso with around 6000 agents worldwide. Out of the bunch, not all may necessarily offer quality services. However, you can rest assured that they are not scams and you have a lot of options to choose from. TravelSense.org is another online source where you can find trusted agents.
Use only credible agencies
After surfing the net for sources with which you can find a good travel agent, you have to be able to select credible agencies. When checking for credible agencies, factors like reputation, size, cheaper deals and so on should be considered. This does not necessarily mean that bigger agencies are better than family sized agencies or cheaper agencies with wonderful deals will offer quality. Your research should include a cost-benefit analysis of these factors and a decision should be made.
Another factor that must be noted is the accreditation of the agencies. The two main bodies that accredit agencies include- the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) which is the clearinghouse for US airlines and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). You should also investigate the ease of their services. Do they offer waivers? What time do they operate?
Look for the right certification of the travel agent
It is not enough to check for the accreditation of the travel agency. You should also check for the certification of the travel agent. Principally, there are two main agency trade associations. The first, which is larger, is the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). It is the leading global advocate for travel agents, the travel industry and the traveling public and they provide certification to individual travel agents. Travelsense.org is a good place to find ASTA agents.
The other group is the Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA). ARTA is a non-profit association representing US and Canadian travel agents exclusively. Aside these qualifications, be sure to go over things like language- especially where you do not speak the language of the place you are visiting.
Choose the ones that suit your needs
Even though agencies tend to offer services to suit all type of travels, some agencies are stronger in one over the other. Some agencies are better at offering services for corporate travel engagements, some are better at tourism and some would offer you the best form of service for leisure. It is important to be aware of the kind of services an agency can offer before engaging one or more of its travel agents.
To know this, you can ask the travel agency if it is primarily corporate or leisure, check out their website to see which pictures are rampant and do whatever research you deem fit. The need for this may not seem glaring, but it can be embarrassing when you are provided with a sports car to go for a business meeting or you are taken to a restaurant that is completely away from your expectation. Sometimes a bad service is not really bad; it is just being performed by the wrong hands.
Interview and ask as the right questions
The next step is to interview travel agents and ask all the necessary questions. After doing all the underground work, it is important not to skip the question and answers part. This ‘interview’ may be as simple as a phone call but it can save you a lot of frustration and again, embarrassment.
When asking questions, you have to ensure you ask the right questions. As he/she answers, you should be wary of things like language, attitude, flexibility, and generally how the travel agent responds to questions. Look out for suggestions and how fast they come up with alternatives. You can also question his/ her experience. How long has the travel agent been in practice? How many clients have complained? What kind of challenges were encountered and how were they taken care of?
Unless you are extremely constrained by time, every point noted here should be properly considered. Not just to guarantee a stress-free trip but also for security reasons. With these in place, your travel agent is sure to provide you the most cost effective and smooth traveling experience you can possibly have.