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One of the hazards of working for a travel trade magazine is that so many people think they are experts on travel. The assumption seems to be, “I took a great vacation last summer. Therefore, I’m a travel expert.”
But if I were the Editor-in-Chief of Petroleum Weekly, for instance, I doubt I would run into many folks telling me they just tapped their own oil well in their backyard. (Not that I would ever want to trade jobs, mind you — not ever!)
As travel agents, I’m sure you face a similar situation every day. For example, one of the objections about using an agent goes something like this: “I know as much as they do about travel, and besides, I don’t want to spend a lot of money.”
Earlier this month, in honor of National Travel and Tourism Week (May 1-7) and Travel Agent Appreciation Day (May 4), the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) released a preview of a major consumer survey, and the results seem to counter this common attitude toward agents. According to a press release, consumers report that travel agents save them an average of $452 per trip and an average of four hours in travel planning. Respondents also said that agents help them avoid costly mistakes.
We don’t know the exact data supporting this conclusion — the full survey results will be available May 30 — but the folks at ASTA seem very excited about what they have seen so far.
“We couldn’t hold back the good news: Travel agent usage is at its highest level since we began commissioning independent consumer research three years ago,” said Zane Kerby, president and CEO of ASTA. “At this point, consumers have tried it all. They’ve booked online, they’ve gone direct, and they’ve used a travel agent. This study dispels the myth that booking direct with suppliers or spending hours online yourself gets you a better deal or gives you a happier travel experience.”
Perhaps consumers are responding to an increasingly complicated world where major retail purchases require hours of research — or it could be recognition of the fact that agents spend their days (and often nights and weekends) engaged in exactly this endeavor. One can only hope that agents’ expertise is finally getting its due respect.