Travel Agents Defend Travel Industry

Popular consumer publication Woman's Day recently ran an article with the eye-catching title of "10 Things Travel Agents Won’t Tell You." Author Anne Roderique-Jones shared details on commissions and fam trips, but also compared the price of human agents with OTAs and claimed that agents are not able to book all airlines. Overwhelmingly, the article took the stance that travel agents are less than honest with their clients, and that a traveler would save money by using a website to book a trip.

Understandably, this set off a flurry of responses from professional agents, many of whom have appeared in the pages of Travel Agent magazine and its sister publication Luxury Travel Advisor. 

Stacy Small of Elite Travel International commented on the article: "I have to laugh at how ludicrous your accusations are that we do NOT find the best rates for our clients and only care about selling products that up our commissions. It is a shame that you did not bother to research this piece talking to long-established agents (or our clients) or well-respected organizations like ASTA or Virtuoso but chose to focus on how to get the cheapest flights using Kayak or TravelZoo."

Sharon Oberritter, owner at Oberritter Travel, went through the article's posts one by one and pointed out the fallacies in each. One of her best comments criticized the article's claim that agents may not know every detail about the destination or hotel that they are selling: "Perhaps I have not seen every hotel room or cruise ship, but then neither have the online companies. I do network with hotel reps and hundreds of other agents when I have clients asking about a site that I may not have visited. Believe me, I can send out an email and get a recommendation from an agent friend or rep that has been there and done that. I also work with reputable suppliers who have either been there themselves or have employees who have."

From Cruise Planners, Kelley Austin acknowledged that a travel agent may not necessarily find the best price, but that they certainly provide the best value. "My favorite quote is by Warren Buffet," she commented: "'Price is what you pay, Value is what you get.' There are many people that will tell you, a cheap vacation is the most expensive mistake you can ever make." One of her clients jumped in to vouch for Austin's value as an agent: "Kelley Austin has gone the extra mile to insure we have the perfect trip in spite of our own foolishness and some serious illnesses that have occurred. She is up front about fees and charges she has no control over and those she does which are few and far between." 

Even hoteliers joined in the discussion: Daniela Orellana, Director of Sales of The Singular hotels in Chile, wrote that even better than a commission is the commitment and relationship between a travel agent and supplier "in making their clients' trip the best one of their lives. Better than a commission....is the traveler sending you a Thank You note for such a wonderful trip. Yes, we all need to make money to pay our bills, but when your client, who was advised by a professional travel advisor, refers you to their best friends, no commission can cover that!" 

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