- Does Every Traveler Need a Travel Agent?
- So how do you find a qualified travel agent?
- 5 Questions You Must Ask When Hiring a Travel Agent
In this article, I will go over 5 questions you must ask your travel agent before hiring them. Many people have had bad experiences with travel agents. One bad experience could turn someone off from ever considering using any travel agent again. It must be a really bad feeling to be on a trip and to think to yourself “I could have done a better job myself”. I previously wrote about the 10 Pros and Cons of working with an agent. That article was written to let you know that there may be some risks involved with working with a travel agent. But, do you know the best way to minimize that risk? It is by interviewing your travel agent.
Do not be afraid to interview your travel agent prior to hiring them. If your travel agent was a salaried employee that you were hiring, you would have them go through a complete hiring process. Even if you were referred to the agent that you are considering working with, do your due diligence. Do not allow them to be the only ones asking questions. Did you know that you could weed out the bad agents just by asking the right questions?
Does Every Traveler Need a Travel Agent?
To be honest, I don’t think everyone needs a travel agent. However, the moderate to luxury traveler should definitely consider using a travel agent. Black Travel Lounge previously wrote an article on 5 things to consider when deciding if using a travel agent is best for you. That article is a great starting point if you are still on the fence about using a travel agent for your travels.
At a minimum, you should have an agent price check your own findings. I recommend everyone to find an agent, and once you are ready to pull the trigger on a trip or vacation package, reach out to the agent. Send them what you’ve found and ask them; Can you do better? It might be yes, it might be No, but it is definitely worth the try.
For the budget traveler, often it is better to book things on your own. Most travel agents will use tried and true service providers. Because their reputation is on the line with every interaction, they use companies that they know will provide a great service. These vendors often come at a premium.
Budget travelers tend to be willing to take more risks which can mean saving a lot of $$$. A great example of this is the “Blind” Vacation packages. I could never imagine selling someone a package to a resort without knowing upfront which resort it is. The thought of that terrifies me. But many people take advantage of these every day and live to tell stories of great scores or horrifying nightmares.
So how do you find a qualified travel agent?
Referrals from Friends & Family
The first way is to ask for referrals. Facebook has made it extremely easy for us to ask our family and friends for recommendations and suggestions. If you have a friend with a similar travel style, you should ask them if they use an agent. I am sure that someone you know, knows somebody.
Searching ‘travel agent’ and your city/state in Google is sure to turn in some results. Google makes it easy as you can even use a map feature to find agents close by if you prefer an agent that has a brick-and-mortar business. Today, you have the option of using a travel agent from anywhere honestly. Especially with Covid-19, most businesses are operating remotely. Google will also provide reviews for you to consider. Google will also bring you results from other review pages such as Yelp, which will give you more agents plus reviews to consider.
Affiliate Travel Networks
travel agencies join affiliate networks or consortiums that allow them to offer benefits to their clients. The good thing about these is that agencies must meet certain criteria in order to join these associations. Agencies that are a part of the largest Travels Consortiums are required to meet a certain sales quota every year. They also are required to be fully registered and licensed to sell travel. Two of the largest two Travel Consortiums are Virtuoso, Ensemble, and Travel Leaders. Searching for an agent that is part of one of these networks has been made easy by each association. They all have tools that allow you to search for agents.
Virtuoso – (if you would like to find my page on Virtuoso, it’s Bruce Powell )
5 Questions You Must Ask When Hiring a Travel Agent
Is selling travel your full-time career?
This is a very important question. I don’t think you would want a travel agent who is dividing their attention between their travel clients and another full-time job. It will take a part-time travel agent twice as long to reach a high level of efficiency as someone who sells travel full-time. Only use a travel agent who has made a full-time career out of selling travel.
How Long have you been selling travel?
A travel agent’s role ‘SHOULD’ be to help you choose, plan and arrange the perfect travel itinerary. They ‘SHOULD’ be able to make recommendations on destinations, hotels, and activities on your personal preferences and budget. I am emphasizing should because all agents are not the same and their experience, professionalism, and overall travel knowledge can greatly vary. Ask the agent how long have they been selling travel full-time. You should aim to find someone with a least a few years of experience. An inexperienced travel agent should be working under a more experienced agent at the start of their career. Do not work with a ‘travel agent’ who is independent and inexperienced.
Where have they traveled to?
Now I am not trying to be funny when I say that, but not all travel agents travel often. Get a travel agent who travels! Seems simple enough right? Well, I have seen a lot of travel agents marketing themselves who have very little first-hand destination knowledge.
With that being said it is also important to recognize that no one has been to every city/state/country in the world. When looking for an agent, search for an agent who is very familiar with the areas that you most often travel to. A good agent will have a network and experience to rely on when you are interested in traveling to somewhere that they have not been.
Who is your host agency?
Travel agents usually work either as an employee of a travel agency or as independent contractors of a host agency. Host agencies provide independent travel agents the ability to work as part of a larger travel organization. These travel agents are contracted to the host agency and in term are able to provide their clients benefits that are reserved for top-producing travel agencies. There are mostly reputable host agencies but you also have MLM (multi-level marketing) companies that pretend to be legit travel agent host agencies.
Travel Agent MLM is a really big business. These types of business models mostly sell the ability to sell travel. Because of this many unqualified people are selling themselves as travel professionals. Intel travel is one of the largest organizations with this business model. There you can sign up today by paying a hefty fee, and by this afternoon start using web-based systems that allow them to sell vacation packages. When working for a new travel agent, always ask who is their host agency. Google the agency’s name and scam and see if there are any results that will cause concern.
What industry accreditations do you have?
If you are working directly with a travel agency, or an agent that works directly for an agency they will not have a host. These agencies should be registered directly, with the travel industry accrediting organizations. The highest regarded accreditations come from the International Air Transport Association or IATA and the Airlines Reporting Corporation or ARC.
You are able to verify an agency’s status with IATA, by obtaining their IATA numeric code and entering it on IATA’s website. Similarly, you can verify an agency’s ARC number via The ARC official site A Travel agency is required to have one of these numbers in order to be able to sell standalone airplane tickets. While travel agencies can have other numbers such as a Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) number, these agencies are only able to sell airfare is included as part of a vacation package. Personally, I would not use an agency that is not a full-time service agency.
I hope that this article has helped you find out different methods to ensure you find the right travel agent for your travel needs. With a little research on the agent and asking the right questions, you will be able to find the perfect match.