A recent Today Show segment on cheap Costco travel deals is causing controversy among travel advisors, and the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has weighed in with a rebuttal.
Themed around the start of the spring break travel season, the segment touts the price benefits of booking travel deals through Costco. While traditional travel advisors are not mentioned directly, the segment does compare Costco travel deals to the prices consumers could get by booking via online travel agencies (OTAs) and directly on hotel and resort websites -- implying that Costco is the best source of travel deals.
“Travel advisors are a diverse group, many with specialties and niche expertise that delivers high value to their clients,” ASTA responded in a statement provided to Travel Agent. “Finding the ‘best price’ is not the same as finding the ‘best value.’ What a good travel advisor will do is find the price and service combination that best meets the traveler’s needs and wants.”
ASTA also pointed out travel advisors’ unique ability to be in their clients’ corner when things go wrong.
“An advisor’s focus on ‘duty of care’ – helping safeguard travelers from harm and keeping them informed when things go wrong – is priceless,” ASTA said. “What do you do if you find yourself amid a horrific storm (or worse)? Who is there to rebook your flights, cancel or rebook your hotel reservations, provide you with new options smartly and expeditiously? Your travel advisor. You cannot buy that sort of peace of mind in bulk at Costco.”
ASTA also raised another important issue regarding the segment: while it is not marked as a paid advertisement, it could resemble one. (The segment even closes with the presenter noting the cost of an annual Costco membership.) If true, that means the segment would violate the Federal Trade Commission’s advertising endorsement regulations, ASTA said. ASTA has reached out to the Today Show on these issues, as well as the value of working with a travel advisor.
“Discerning consumers will not be deceived by lazy journalism and thinly-veiled commercials, and know there is a difference between price and value – to get the best value for your travel dollar, call your local ASTA travel advisor,” ASTA said.