Not long ago, on a flight to Hawaii, I conducted a bit of informal consumer research by chatting with a fellow passenger. The woman I spoke to was traveling with her family on their first trip to the Islands. As we spoke, it became clear that she had serious misperceptions about Hawaii. For instance, it seemed she imagined Honolulu as a Polynesian village with grass huts. She also said she was hoping to spend a day visiting the other islands as well. That’s right — all of the neighbor islands in one day.
To most people, her lack of knowledge might be shocking, but for travel agents, it is hardly unusual. As proof of this, ASTA recently shared some of the strangest questions their members have received from clients.
Not surprisingly, many client misperceptions are related to geography:
“Can I drive/take the train/take a bus to Hawaii?”
“Can I take a seven-day cruise that will include stops in Africa and the Cayman Islands?”
“Do I need a passport to travel to New York City?”
Other questions ASTA reported were related to flying, including, “Can I open my window on the airplane?” and “If I don’t have a pre-assigned seat, will I have to stand for the entire flight?”
Naturally, travel agents take it all in stride.
“As a travel agent, we answer all types of questions. Many people want oceanview hotel rooms in cities not near the ocean,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair. “It is our job to know everything there is to know about the location we are sending our clients to and to be able to answer any question that they may have. ASTA travel agents are professionals and are there for clients before, during and after the trip.”
I have no doubt that the emerging destinations featured in this issue’s cover story, “Fave Five Destinations to Watch," will cause confusion for some clients. But hopefully, some of these travelers will at least be able to fall back on the expertise of a travel agent.