By Latanya Hughes
Faculty Member, Hospitality Management at American Public University
Today’s traveler is more informed than in years past. The Internet became a gateway for online travelers. With the number of online third-party booking agents like Orbitz and Travelocity, do people need travel agents? Well, did you know about 49 percent of people using the Internet to book travel will not book a location without a first reading a review? This says something about the current needs of the traveler. They need reassurance that where they want to book is reputable and safe. Unfortunately, many online reviews are deceitful and untrue. This is why travel agents are still the way to go.
Shelly Alker is a travel agent with Exceptional Journeys. She notes, “The Internet can’t ask or answer questions, doesn’t care if you have a problem while traveling and doesn’t care if you ever book with them again. With online companies, like Expedia, etc., which are still travel agencies, you’re doing all the work and they are making money from your booking.”
I recently spoke with Apostle Barbara Moore and Dr. Karen McCray about their experiences with a travel agent. For years, they’ve traveled to West Africa on annual mission trips. Without their travel agent, Mr. Edward Taylor of RT Travel Agency, their trips would not be as smooth and worry-free.
Mr. Taylor is familiar with West Africa, so he is able to provide both travelers with information most online travel agencies like Expedia cannot share. He also takes the time to find out their missions itinerary. This way, he can schedule their sleeping arrangements as well as transportation arrangements, so they are always on time. Since working with Mr. Taylor, they have had no issues regarding safety or quality hotel experiences. In fact, they have stayed in luxurious establishments with solid reputations.
Dr. McCray says, “I have peace of mind knowing where I am staying accommodates my needs as an American. I realize standards are different when I am in Africa, but Mr. Taylor makes sure we are in the best hotels. He also makes sure the hotels align with what we are used to in America. I appreciate that.”
While third-party booking agents offer a range of discounted services, including packaged deals, they dehumanize the travel booking experience because the “personal touch” one gets when speaking with a travel agent is lost. Working with travel agents is now a “lost art,” but it is certainly still alive and well. According to a report by CNN, travel retail locations have dropped from 34,000 in the mid-1990s to about 13,000 today. Even with this decline, travel agents account for a third of the U.S. travel market. This equates to a whopping $95 billion. Is the travel agent a thing of the past? It certainly does not look like it.
About the Author
Latanya Hughes is a motivated, personable results-oriented business professional with a Bachelor’s from Tuskegee University and her MBA from Strayer University. She is presently completing a Doctor of Strategic Leadership in Global Consulting from Regent University. She is a full-time faculty member at American Public University where she teaches courses in the Hospitality Management program.
Latanya has worked for over a decade across the hospitality industry, from food and beverage to hotels. She has a successful 14-year track record in improving operational efficiency and team effectiveness. For more about Latanya, click here.
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