Travel Agents Need to Fix the Perception Problem

Consumers have a lot of misconceptions about what travel agents do By: Kenneth Shapiro
Shapiro // © 2018 TravelAge West
Shapiro // © 2018 TravelAge West

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This issue’s cover story, “Going Big” (page 14), examines some of the issues large families face when they travel. This is a top concern among consumers, according to the “U.S. Family Travel Survey 2017,” which was conducted by the Family Travel Association and the New York University School of Professional Studies Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. After reading the survey, I have no doubt that large families need help with their travel planning — and I’m also sure that savvy advisors will jump in to fill that void.

The family travel survey is also referenced in our guest column on page 8. In the study, consumers who had never used an agent gave them a grade of C+, one of the lowest scores in the survey, while those who had used an advisor gave them a score of B+, one of the highest marks. Clearly, this disparity points to a major perception problem for agents, and it should be a wake-up call for all advisors to spread the message of their services far and wide.

Advisor organizations such as ASTA — along with many consortia — have made attempts over the years to highlight the value agents bring to trip planning, but more needs to be done by individuals as well. Customer testimonials, client reviews and detailed case studies can help show travelers the benefits of professional assistance. Anything you can do to spread the word to a skeptical public can pay off many times over. By helping potential customers understand the benefits of using a travel professional, agencies will not only increase business in the short term, but they can also drive long-term business as happy clients return.

If it’s any consolation, the travel industry overall received a B- grade from respondents in the study — so clearly, we all have plenty of room for improvement.

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