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MSNBC Columnist Writes Article: Don't Use a Travel Agent

April 5, 2010 By: Ruthanne Terrero

Travel reporter Christopher Elliott on today has an article on entitled “Don’t use a travel agent. 4 trips you should always book yourself.”

Of course, my back immediately went up when I read the headline, but after I read the article I wasn’t as offended. I'd be curious to know what you all think. Either email me at [email protected] or write in the "Comments" section below.

Yes, the article does promote a “Do It Yourself” attitude to a certain degree, but Elliott right up front says that he believes that "honeymoons, cruises, round-the-world flights and certain international trips should be handled by a pro. Also, if you’re uncomfortable with the Internet or don’t have any time, a travel agent is a good choice. I’m also on the record as saying there are a few trips I can’t imagine planning through anyone but a travel agent.”

So, what is Mr. Elliott recommending one take on oneself? I’ve taken the liberty of citing his points and then creating my own responses. Be sure to read his entire article for his own words. I'd also suggest you comment on his article by describing the wonderful experiences you've designed for your clients, and then ask if a consumer could have done that on his own. I'm just saying...

Trips you know about yourself. Fair enough. Do you really want a client who is so well-schooled in a flight or a destination that they’d probably be more of an irritant to the process than a good client? Let them have it. This is probably the type of trip you’d perform gratis for a good client anyway.

Trips you have the time to book yourself. Yes, if you have an endless amount of hours to search the Internet, come up with 3 million responses to your search, narrow it down to a thousand responses, read all that information and then suffer a dramatic attack of information overload, followed by a bout of serious self doubting because you’ve probably made the wrong choice (I mean, how could you possibly make the best choice out of  a thousand options? There’s no way!).

If the agent isn’t interested in your business. I say, yes, this is a bad sign. (Kind of like my dry cleaner who clearly likes to torture me.) But, I say to the consumer, rather than do it yourself, try another agent who will not only be interested in your business but will enhance your trip with fabulous knowledge and insider secrets. Here’s a list of Travel Agent’s Top 25 Travel Agents of 2009….we suggest you start with them…they are good. Trust me.

When your travel agent is negligent. Same answer to the above.

Elliott concludes his article by saying good travel agents shouldn’t be upset by his article, but that those who are truly incompetent will be.

I agree with him there, as well, except for his comment that bad agents are living for the next fam trip…are there truly that many fams left out there? If there are, let me know. Are bad agents allowed on them? I would assume that these days, agents are fully vetted before being allowed on a subsidized trip, but maybe I’m wrong.

In the end, I think Elliott makes some fair points in his article and goes out of the way to keep it balanced. His headline, however, loses him some points, since it’s unnecessarily incendiary.

What do you think? Post a comment below, write us on our Facebook page, send us a tweet at our Twitter page or engage your fellow agents at AgentNation. We want to hear from you.




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