Offered by Rick Stone, Mr. Australia
Yes, the Internet has caused big changes in the travel industry, allowing people to make their own travel arrangements around the world. BUT: It is far from perfect and professional travel agents still serve very real and useful purposes and can be of great help to their clients. As a matter of fact, studies show that more travelers are working with agents each year.
Here are a few things to consider before you decide whether to consult a professional agent or try to do it all yourself:
No additional cost: While some travel agents charge a fee for their services, most do not. Here’s the thing: You don’t pay the agent; the suppliers that they book for you do. Those suppliers (international airlines, tours, cruises, hotels, etc.) charge agents a little less than they charge the general public. Agents keep the difference and that’s how they are compensated.
And while we’re on the subject of cost, remember that many credit cards charge “foreign transaction fees” for reservations that you make yourself. Also hotels, etc. in some countries are starting to charge additional fees for payment by credit card. If an agent books your trip then you make one payment to them (in US dollars) for your whole trip package – with no additional fees. Mr. Australia even gives a discount for payment by check!
Trips with multiple flights: It’s easy to book a flight online from New York to Miami – though agents’ reservation systems often offer more information, better choices and prices. But things get more complicated when you are flying from the US to Melbourne, then to Ayers Rock, Cairns and Sydney then home. This is where an experienced travel agent can save you a LOT of time, stress and money. Mr. Australia’s flight specialist determines the best itinerary and searches all available airlines to make sure that you get the best routing, schedule and price. We also assist with seat requests and getting your frequent flyer number(s) into the booking so that you can earn miles from your flights. We can also enter your TSA “Known Traveler” or “Global Entry” codes in the record as well. We even process your visas for Australia – free of charge!
Agents are your advocate: If anything should happen to go wrong on your trip it is good to have an agent to help you to make things right. The truth is that airlines, hotels, rental car companies, etc. don’t prioritize claims from individual clients unless you are a big-time frequent flyer or repeat guest. They aren’t overly concerned if you are unhappy. But they do care about travel agents, who they want to continue to give them multiple clients. If an airline is late or bumps you off of a flight your travel agent has a much better chance of getting the airline to do what is right for you than you do. And that’s a fact.
Get the most out of your trip: Yes, you can find hotels, tours, etc. online. But you will only find what you are looking for. There are many more things out there that you might enjoy if you knew about them. That’s why Mr. Australia takes the time to ask clients about their interests, hobbies and preferences . Then I suggest places to go and things to do to design the best possible trip for each client. A few examples:
– You can book a day trip to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef online. But did you know that you can go on a smaller boat that only takes 35 people instead of 350? And that on some boats you can scuba dive on the reef even if you are not a certified diver? And that some boats offer options for non-swimmers, like glass bottom boats?
– When you visit Ayers Rock in the Australian outback did you know that you have a choice of 6 hotels and resorts to choose from? Mr. Australia helps you pick the one that is right for your needs and your budget. Did you know that two of them have rooms with views of the Rock? Mr. Australia does.
– Like to sail? Did you know you can go out with a local skipper on Sydney Harbor or on a former America’s Cup racing yacht in New Zealand? Mr. Australia does.
– Do you like wine? Mr. Australia can put you on great, small-group day tours to 4 different wine regions in Australia and even more in New Zealand.
– In Fiji there are resorts that cater to families, adults only, divers, surfers, those that want to be active and those that just want to relax on the beach. Mr. Australia will help you pick the one that is just right for your interests and budget.
Trusted suppliers: A good travel agent knows the best hotels, day tours, cruises, etc., based on their past experience and clients’ feedback. This helps them make sure that you have the best experience possible.
So find a specialist: It isn’t realistic to expect an agent to have an intimate knowledge of every destination in the world. So find an agent that is knowledgeable about the area(s) that you plan to visit. Mr. Australia only does three countries because it’s important to me to be able to provide the best advice and best possible trips for my clients. I have been to these areas many times and continue to go to keep my knowledge up to date.