Take Advantage of the Turning Tide

Last night a buddy of mine posted on Facebook that he had a headache from trying to book a flight online. Seems he’s looking for a flight from San Diego to Boston, and he actually has the gall to want to book a convenient flight that won’t break the bank. I remember when online booking first came out and everybody loved it—more recently, I’m hearing more about the headaches caused by it.

I naturally suggested he contact a travel agent, and his response was interesting: He had never thought about that. Today’s consumers are so programmed to do everything online that simple solutions—that would actually take the work out of their hands—are beyond their grasp.

That may be changing, however. One of the big stories in travel news this week was the resurgence of the real-live travel agent. The backlash against the limitations of the web is creating an opportunity for home-based agents like yourselves. Fewer travelers are enjoying using the Web to plan and buy trips, according to a study last week by Forrester Research, a market research company. About 46 percent of U.S. leisure travelers used the Internet to book travel this year, down from 53 percent in 2007.

Difficult site navigation and presentation on travel company sites and hotel and airline sites are causing a growing number of travelers to shift away from the Web and consider using alternative methods of booking travel.

So that’s where you come in: Get the word out there that travel agents can be the answer to travelers’ frustrations with the web. For instance, promote the fact that agents have deals with suppliers that can sometimes enable them to offer lower prices than on the Web. Make sure your clients—and potential clients—know that online travel booking is no substitution for a real person.

As for my buddy in San Diego, I think I already made a convert out of him. Some agent out there should be getting a call today.

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