Travel agents these days receive just as many unusual requests as they do conventional ones. ASTA’s 2010 Hot Spots for Summer Survey asked travel agents what were the strangest travel questions they have been asked by their clients. Requests range from slightly offbeat to incredibly peculiar. The survey found that many travelers have a misunderstanding of the geography of where they want to travel, which an ASTA travel agent can help correct. ASTA’s list also begs the question: have you, as an agent, received strange queries from clients?
“As a travel agent we answer all types of questions. Many people want ocean view hotel rooms in cities that are not near the ocean,” says Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair. “It is our job to know everything there is to know about the location we are sending our clients and be able to answer any question they may have.”
Finding answers to detail-specific questions might be one thing, but how do agents make their customers understand that certain requests are not even possible? ASTA had more than a handful of members report that, at one time or another, they have had clients ask “Can I drive/take the train/take a bus to Hawaii?”
This year, ASTA travel agents were asked about taking buses to India or a cruise from Baltimore to Las Vegas . “Why does my train have to go through France when I travel from Spain to Italy?” and “Can I take a seven-day cruise that will include stops in Africa and the Cayman Islands?” were among some of the strangest questions travelers asked their agents. Indeed, ASTA says it seems travel agents these days face more than just the challenge of finding the best value; they should also be prepared to give their customers a crash course in geography.
Although it is better to ask a question than be unprepared, it is surprising how many travel agents get asked about the purpose of a passport, ASTA says. “Can I use my driver’s license to travel outside of the United States?” and “Do I need a passport to go to New York City?” are not uncommon questions. At times, New York City can seem like a whole other world but, in reality, it isn’t.
Some of the other strange requests included a traveler who wanted to know if they could open the window on the airplane and, if they did, would their hair blow in the wind? Another traveler was fascinated by how the cruise ship staff operates, “Does the cruise line staff live and sleep on the ship?” One passenger, who was worried about not getting a pre-assigned seat, thought they would have to stand for the whole trip!
When making travel arrangements for clients, agents know to expect the unexpected. One participant said, “Nothing is strange to me. I try to take each request seriously and remind myself that no two people and no two vacations are alike. People always have their special reasons for traveling and I try to remain flexible to help them plan their dream vacation.”
Odd requests aside, ASTA travel agents are dedicated to the business of selling travel which means getting travelers where they want to go.