Travelers tired of chaos turn to an old friend for help: the travel agent

Agents not only offer expertise in managing persistent restrictions, but also have access to inventory from multiple airlines and hotels – handy when travel is interrupted.LM Otero/Associated Press

Barry Pilbeam had never used a travel agent before. But he decided to turn to one of them for a trip from Calgary to Southeast Asia with his wife to make sure he was prepared for all the restrictions and situations. visa issues.

Their first big trip in years, they didn’t want to repeat the last time they booked a hotel in Amsterdam which turned out to be terrible.

“I told myself that I will never do this again and that I will do business with a professional and I know that I will get what I am looking for,” said Mr Pilbeam, 64.

“I have to use their expertise to know what to do and where to go.”

Now he plans to always use an agent unless he knows the location or has friends who live at his destination.

Travel agents hear of new customers looking for a sense of security after COVID-19[feminine] created an unstable holiday industry. Agents not only offer expertise in managing persistent restrictions, but also have access to inventory from multiple airlines and hotels – handy when travel is disrupted by a major storm such as the travel chaos at vancouver international airportwhere a snowstorm led to massive cancellations.

“People who hadn’t previously booked with a travel agent feel it gives them a little more comfort to have someone to rely on,” said Lesley Keyter, Founder and CEO of Calgary-based agency, The Travel Lady.

“A lot of people have lost faith in the airlines to help them.”

As hotels and airlines struggle to reach pre-pandemic levels of activity, Ms Keyter said her own agency’s sales were up 28% from 2019. The clients she deals with are also starting to become more younger, with more people under 50 looking to use it. services. This sentiment was echoed by Virtuoso, a global network of travel agencies that reported a 50% increase in demand over the past year, with millennials and Gen Xers leading the way.

Ms Keyter said travelers don’t want to worry about restrictions and are turning to agents for peace of mind.

“COVID has definitely triggered the rejuvenation of travel agents,” Ms Keyter said. “Millennials don’t have time to plan, but they want to travel, so they want to trust someone to do it for them and create a transformative and unique itinerary for them.”

Travel agencies say consumers generally have nothing to lose in terms of the prices they pay for flights and travel packages, as many agents work on commission from the companies they book with. Some agencies charge fees for their services.

If there’s a problem, agents have access to back-end networks that allow them to instantly book your flight with other airlines or find vacant hotel rooms.

“A travel agent has access to live inventory, and you might not be able to see all the other options,” said Marc Casto, president of Flight Center’s Leisure Americas section. He added that agents can work with you to exchange tickets between different airlines, whereas if you booked directly with an airline, you might only be able to work with that specific airline.

This ability to view live inventory also works with hotel rooms, which can be useful in scenarios where you’re stuck on vacation.

Mr Casto highlighted the major delays and cancellations airlines and airports have faced as they try to ramp up operations after downsizing during the pandemic. “There is a higher likelihood of chaos occurring, which can be difficult to manage, and we expect this to be the case for many years to come,” he said.

The Canadian government reported that one in 20 flights were canceled in July, and those cancellations sent hordes of people rushing to rebook. Mr. Casto said agencies like his can give people an edge in this fight.

Ms Keyter said she was noticing people’s travel habits were also changing. After years of confinement, its customers are opting for longer and more expensive trips to try to make up for lost time.

With such a large expense, Ms Keyter said using a travel agent to help choose the right holiday is like using a financial adviser to guide the allocation of money.

“It’s kind of like, are you going to sit at your computer and play with the stock markets, or are you going to consult an advisor?” said Mrs. Keyter.

There are cases where independent travelers are safe to forgo agents, Ms. Keyter said, such as for destinations that have stable and robust tourism infrastructure and where you can speak the language to get out of sticky situations. She also said the agents don’t deal with short-term rentals like Airbnb, so you’re on your own if that’s what you want.

However, even independent travelers come to him for advice these days. Recently, a couple asked for help planning a road trip through Ireland because they didn’t have the time or inclination to do the research themselves.

“It all depends on your comfort level, your experience as a traveler and how much work you want to do,” Ms Keyter said.

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