Debra Maher, owner of Cruise Holidays in Sudbury, provided a list of reasons to use a professional travel agent and, more specifically, tips for finding the right one for you.
Reasons to use a professional travel agent
Complexity of the trip: Cruises are an excellent example of a complex vacation. Travellers are encouraged to travel the day before a cruise departs, which necessitates finding a hotel in the area. Additionally, booking the cruise alone can be a virtual nightmare if attempted online, since travellers have numerous choices — from the cruise line and ship itself, to the type of stateroom. Some larger ships even request passengers book some of their on-board entertainment prior to the ship’s departure.
Customer advocacy: If you have a problem with a particular part of your travel experience, the agent is there to act on your behalf to help you re-book your trip or whatever you might need.
Expert guidance: Travel agents, unlike instructions on a web page, are experts in understanding and deciphering the myriad of travel information and codes out there. It’s what they’ve been trained to do and they do it every day.
Personalized service: Instead of an impersonal voice thousands of miles away, travel agents get to know you. They know what you want and what you value in your travel experience.
Professional advice: Travel agents are there to make sure you get where you want to go, when you want to go and can even do it for the lowest price, if that is a priority for you. “Keep in mind that ‘cheapest’ is not always ‘better’ and a travel agent can steer you away from deals that might look too good to be true,” Maher said.
Time: Instead of checking a long list of travel web pages, which only provide rates and fares for the companies that have contracted with them, why not go straight to the source? A travel agent has all the information at his or her fingertips, saving you hours in front of a computer screen.
Unbiased information: Agents work for their clients, not for a travel supplier. It makes sense that a happy customer will be a repeat customer.
Choosing the right agent for you
Every travel agency is different and accordingly, some are better suited to a given consumer than others. Here are some tips provided by Maher on choosing a travel agent who is right for you:
Go with the pros: For a cruise vacation, look for someone who has achieved Accredited Cruise Counsellor or Master Cruise Counsellor status from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Through its continuing education and training programs, CLIA prepares its members to operate high-calibre, competitive cruise-focused businesses.
Ask around: Tap friends, neighbours and relatives who use an agent they trust. You may want to visit or call several agencies to find the one that best suits your needs. Consider an agent’s willingness to listen and answer questions. The best agents want to establish a long-term relationship with a client, not just make one sale.
Ask about fees: Good agents will notify their clients of any additional fees, including service fees, which are becoming more common, especially with higher-end agencies. Do not be scared away by the concept of a service fee, because it often entitles you to special service you won’t get on the Internet. It’s simply an agent’s way of getting properly compensated for the work they do.
Find out an agency’s track record: Check with the local Better Business Bureau, while keeping in mind they will only have records of agencies that have had reports filed against them.
“Travel agents are there for their clients before, during and after the trip and when the unexpected happens,” Maher said. “We provide value, expertise, convenience and personal service to our customers and understand that travel planning isn’t just about places, it’s about people.
“There is no doubt that today’s travellers have more options than ever before; from destinations, packages and pricing to booking methods and itineraries,” she added. “One of the most important decisions a traveller can make is selecting the right travel agent, to help them get started on the right foot.”
For more information, contact Maher at 705-524-8747, via e-mail at [email protected] or visit mahers.cruiseholidays.com. Cruise Holidays of Sudbury is located at 754 Falconbridge Rd.