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Topic # 240749 24-Sep-2018 11:38
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We're in the process of planning a European trip next year. We initially went in to discuss this with a travel agent. But, while she did give us some advice and was happy to answer any questions we had there, she ended up pretty much just chucking a few brochures our way for us to look at later. She also overstated how much the airfares would cost, quoting prices higher than her companies website stated.

 

This got me thinking. Considering we can book airfares and other travel components directly online with the respective companies, do travel agents still provide any benefit? And conversely, is there any disadvantages to booking travel through a travel agent?

 

We are looking to have various components to this trip, including a river cruise and one or more bus tours. So I do see some benefit at having this all organised by the same point of contact. 


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  Reply # 2095386 24-Sep-2018 11:38
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Allow me to introduce you folks to our new travel community: TravelTalk NZ.

 

We hope to see you there!

 





I am the Geekzone Robot and I am here to help. I am from the Internet. I do not interact. Do not expect other replies from me.



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  Reply # 2095416 24-Sep-2018 12:09
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Most online services are'nt as good as you may think, and there is a LOT of poor quality stuff out there. Web products can give you an idea of approximate pricing and what to expect, but there is still huge variation in stuff. Hotels via Trivago are a good example - the rooms have to be bid into the various hotel companies by the chains themselves, and its a usefulish way to dump the harder to rent rooms or ones with eclectic features ("oh, you didnt want the room backing onto the liftwell??").... you'll also have to put up with and gnash teeth at the automatic pricing systems on these websites that track your browser ID, IP address, region and so on, to keep escalating what you will end up paying.

 

It's also down to how much time you want to put into planning and research; doing this all yourself can be a little satisfying at the end but you will BURN hours of your life chasing stuff down, esp. if you are looking for more than just you and other half.

 

The example I use is that I'm chasing rail tickets down for italy right now, and have had to become an expert in the italian rail system, sub companies and operating structures and so on. It's taken a long time, and I'm confident I havent gotten very good prices. But when all the websites available to you refer back to just 1 or 2 core providers.... you're out of options and have to go with what is presented.

 

I'm not saying travel companies are better, but I have found what they offer can be helpful as you get involved. If you got a disinterested rep, well that's 1 person and there are many companies out there...





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  Reply # 2095418 24-Sep-2018 12:12
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I'd say do it all yourself if you are confident about doing the bookings.  I've done this for the last ten plus years and never had a problem.  Then again most of my trips have been quick hops to Aussie & staying in one city, so nothing complicated.  Before booking a hotel I read plenty of the trip advisor and other reviews.

 

While some travel agents do a brilliant job I know of a family who booked a big trip to Australia & left it all to the travel agent to do their hotel bookings. They were very happy with most of the hotels but the one they stayed in at Surfers gets terrible reviews on Trip Advisor - maybe they got lucky and got a nice room. (I won't name the place but it's around 3 stars) So, unless rooms were in very short supply why would a good travel agent even consider booking a family into a place with such negative reviews?  My guess it would be because travel agents are pushed for time and probably don't have time to really look at hotel reviews very closely.


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  Reply # 2095420 24-Sep-2018 12:15
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Personally, I'd never use a travel agent again.

 

As you say, there's a benefit in having one point of contact to organise everything for you. OTOH, the travel agent won't work very hard to find the best deals. Like any commission agent, it's much better for them to do a lot of jobs quickly than to do any one job well. And if you pay a higher price, their commission is higher!

 

If you use Hopper.com or SkyScanner you can probably (I don't know; I've only used them for airfares to the USA) knock hundreds to thousands of dollars off airfares to Europe. Hopper predicts airfare changes, and will send you notifications, so getting a fairly good airfare is easy. But it's possible that a package deal combining an airfare and a cruise and accommodation might come in cheaper, or more convenient in terms of scheduling and shuttles and so on, than buying them all separately, even if you get the best airfare price via Hopper. You would expect a travel agent to be aware of those deals.

 

I think travel agents are very much aware of online sales, so they won't put much effort into your trip unless they can be fairly sure that you will book the travel through the agency. So, as you say, an initial inquiry will be met with a handful a brochures and off-the-top-of-the-head prices. Bearing in mind that the customer will be happier if the agent subsequently "finds a better deal" for them than having to sell them a worse deal, it's probably a good strategy to start with a higher price.

 

 


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  Reply # 2095434 24-Sep-2018 12:31
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Last travel agent I used for an oversea trip forgot to book the last leg of our return trip from Auckland to the region where we live so we had to go onto ANZ and buy tickets to actually get us home...

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  Reply # 2095436 24-Sep-2018 12:38
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We did Europe this year, our first time there.

 

We used an agent to book the flights, and a stopover in Dubai, and a lease car (which I could have done myself, but it was no more expensive through the agent).

 

We flew Emirates ex AKL, 1 night in Dubai with a safari tour (I'd recommend this, even if you think you'll be knackered after a long flight from NZ), then DXB to CDG in Paris. We traveled Europe for 24 days, then crossed under the channel to London for another 5 nights and flew LHR-DXB-AKL pretty much non-stop.

 

The agent got us good prices on the flights (same as the Emirates advertised pricing) and sorted it all so that we had a pickup at DXB for the stopover and everything just worked. No issues with arriving one airport and leaving another.

 

I'm sure I could do it all myself, and I'm also sure, for that trip, I could have not done it any cheaper and it would have cost me a lot of time and I couldn't have asked them any questions along the way.

 

 

 

One thing I would mention - if you are looking at Dubai/Emirates and a stopover - they have strange rules regarding hotel checkin times.

 

We arrived 6am into Dubai, and both Emirates and the Agent said we had to check in straight away, and that the hotel was basically for 24 hours, so if we wanted to checkout later, we'd need to pay for another night. The hotel thought this was weird, and had never heard of it. I took it up with the agent, who said she double checked with Emirates (who organised it) and it was right. If doing it again, I think I'd be tempted to organise accommodation in Dubai myself, or negotiate a bit better. The hotel gave us some credit for the second night we'd had to pay the agent, and they were great.


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  Reply # 2095496 24-Sep-2018 13:39
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Do they provide any benefits? The answer really depends on what you're after.

 

I travel enough that I'd never willingly use a travel agent except for something I couldn't book online - many tour companies are still travel agent only.

 

Booking complex flight itineraries can be a challenge online, but the last time I used a travel agent about 4 years ago I went in with what I wanted which was a valid fare routing and got told in no uncertain terms that what I wanted couldn't be booked. Needless to say it was valid, and took me to show the travel agent how to book it. I think the fact I wanted an airfare and wasn't interested in travel insurance or anything else had them rather annoyed. My preference now is simply to book through Air NZ even if it means paying $30 for a CSR to help me with things that can't be booked online.

 

Most hotel rates they book are all commissionable and you'll get better rates yourself, not to mention benefits of booking direct if you're a loyalty club member. Some of these benefits such as a free WiFi won't apply for commissionable bookings.

 

I could sometimes spend 10+ hours booking a holiday because I'm particular when it comes to many of the finer details. There are many things I'm also happy to wing or take risks with that your average risk adverse travel agent wouldn't do. I've seen and so many horror stories over the years from people who have booked their own holidays online and made simple mistakes such as forgetting the US is a day behind NZ and not having a hotel to check into.

 

If you want a (largely) problem free holiday and don't want to spend large amounts of time on booking it then walking into a travel agent is a very easy solution.

 

 

 

 

 

 




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  Reply # 2095506 24-Sep-2018 13:45
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sbiddle:

 

Do they provide any benefits? The answer really depends on what you're after.

 

 

In a nutshell, a problem free dream holiday experience. We're intending this to be our "once in a lifetime" trip, complete with Business class flights (if the budget can swing it; pretty sure it can). 

Our initial instinct was that a travel agent would make sense, but I guess we were a little underwhelmed by the lack of help in planning that we initially got. Then again, a previous poster made a pretty good point about not spending too much time on tyre kickers. And I suspect that once we book the centerpiece river cruise portion, a travel agent would be far more helpful.

And this'll be my first real overseas adventure after being diagnosed Coeliac, so I'm pretty damn nervous about that. So if this is something a travel agency can provide more surety and certainty around, that alone would be worth any price of admission. This is why having a cruise at the centre of it all is so appealing to me. Feedback from fellow Coeliacs would suggest that they are excellent at catering safely to this sort of thing.


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  Reply # 2095509 24-Sep-2018 13:50
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Where we have found agents to be better is in multi stop over trips, esp if they are complicated. 

 

Other than that, it's been about 12 years since I last used one. I found my last interaction with one 2 years ago regarding a trip to Germany/Spain painful beyond belief.

 

It helps I have a very savvy wife when it comes to travel and airlines etc. 

 

 


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  Reply # 2095524 24-Sep-2018 14:07
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Flights in and around the pacific, an agent is unlikely to offer little to any tangible benefit, beyond that though and it depends on how experienced a traveller you are.

 

We had our large family trip at xmas time last year, looking on airnz we were looking at airfares somewhere around $ 3500-4000ea return (CHCH to LA, LA to DC, NY to LA, LA to CHCH) flying at xmas / new years was never going to be cheap. Contacted my cousin who owns a travel agency, gave him the details of what we intended to do. Booked us on completely different airlines (air tahiti nui & delta), flights came in around $ 2400 ea all up, a massive savings over the standard airnz / united airlines combo.

 

Also had added benefit of local knowledge of hotels in NY that were good at new years (close to times square but not so close you couldn't get to the hotel room) and knowledge of hotels at Anaheim that were good.

 

Depends on what risk you are happy to take that you know what you are doing and how to find good deals etc


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  Reply # 2095527 24-Sep-2018 14:10
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I'd never take a booking agents word on what's good for a hotel. (I was nearly killed being booked in one of the most dangerous streets in San Francisco) They are incentivised to purchase what they get the bigger discounts or kick backs on. Tripadvisor, or Booking.com will give you good quality reviews on hotels based on critera you like, without someone being financially motivated by their responses. 

 

Perhaps doesn't apply if you use a family member, but most people won't have one for that!

 

 


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  Reply # 2095529 24-Sep-2018 14:14
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Used in the past when that was the only way to book certain aspects.  Some cruises were agent only like this for example, but now pretty much everything has opened up.

 

 

 

Only real benefit I can see now is in some of the combo packages, where they've put together a range of deals, at a price that you may not be able to secure yourself.  If you're not doing a package trip, then as above, with all the tools on the internet, you can pretty much book yourself nowadays.

 

 

 

The big question is where they are making their cut, and usually like any agent, this is either buried in the fine print (many will not give a fully cost itemised breakdown) or relies on a kick back arrangement with the suppliers.  Along the same lines as mortgage/insurance brokers, I do tend to think it's a dwindling important profession.

 

 

 

As much as people wan to hand over full decisions and control to the travel agent, I'd highly recommend getting involved a bit yourself, even to sense check what they're proposed.  Better to spot issues when you have time and resources at your disposal to correct them, that in another country, when you're tired, have limited internet access and maybe don't speak the language etc.

 

 

 

Oh and I'd suggest packing a change of underwear and a tooth brush and a charger in your carry on, in case your bag doesn't magically turn up on the luggage claim carousel at your destination.


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  Reply # 2095547 24-Sep-2018 14:35
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dclegg:

 

We're in the process of planning a European trip next year. We initially went in to discuss this with a travel agent. But, while she did give us some advice and was happy to answer any questions we had there, she ended up pretty much just chucking a few brochures our way for us to look at later. She also overstated how much the airfares would cost, quoting prices higher than her companies website stated.

 

This got me thinking. Considering we can book airfares and other travel components directly online with the respective companies, do travel agents still provide any benefit? And conversely, is there any disadvantages to booking travel through a travel agent?

 

We are looking to have various components to this trip, including a river cruise and one or more bus tours. So I do see some benefit at having this all organised by the same point of contact. 

 

 

I'm going to say, it depends. 

 

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We've had good and bad experiences with travel agents. They can take the hard work out of holiday planning but they might not entirely consider your personal circumstances and needs.  And, maybe they have access to some deals you cannot find online. 

 

And, that is why there are still travel agents despite forecasts of their impending doom. 

 

 


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  Reply # 2095607 24-Sep-2018 15:58
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I've used a travel agent for complicated multi-stop trips to north of the equator for the past 8 years. I appear to be fortunate to find someone who can take my requirements and turn it into what I want (flights) but offers a couple of variations where price / routing might play a part that you are not going to see at least from the basic online booking tools. Different ticket types and so on are a bonus which your average punter may not be able to access. Having had at least one situation where having to adjust plans midway through the trip and leaving the travel agent back in NZ to do the hard yards, the worst part was getting up at 4am local time to make payment for the changes required. 


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  Reply # 2095612 24-Sep-2018 16:09
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/Rant

 

Wife was a travel agent for years (thankfully well out of that line of work now). She worked long hours, often doing a couple of hours of OT each day (especially around end of month). The problem with the industry is that the majority of travel agents are on base + commission with the base being not much above minimum wage. To make a decent commission they have to up-sell, especially insurance and activities. Airlines gave agents incentives to book through them as did hotels. From my observations there were two types of agents at her work, the ones who wanted to get the best deals for their clients and build long term relationships and the ones who wanted to make the biggest commission. Unfortunately the latter was always the dominant. One of her colleagues used to automatically add 25% to a booking to boost his commission, and then 'discount' it by X percent while making a big show about how he was saving them money by cutting into his own pay. This worked surprisingly well and he was one of their top agents. When one of the big agencies introduced their lowest price promise this is when things really took a dive - the travel agents had to follow the policy and typically when the client used the price promise they were savvy enough not to book all the high markup extras. This created a quantity over quality situation which IMHO has really buggered up that brands reputation. When we need to book complicated travel we use a one of the travel agencies that doesn't use the base + commission model as they seem to really try hard to please their client.

 

Rant/

 

For complicated bookings with multiple legs I feel travel agents really earn their coin. It's worth paying a little bit extra for the peace of mind of having someone who knows what they are doing making the bookings. If/when there is an issue it's also good to have someone to go back to to make it right. My mother booked her own flights and accommodation on her last trip to Europe and royally stuffed up, including booking a 'city' hotel that was 70 miles out of the city and messing up her transfers. She ended up paying more at the time to fix her stuff ups than the agent's extra would have been.


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