I save struggling by never book via Online Travel Agents

What are the main factors to take into account when travelers doing their trip planning? Here are a few examples that really matters for Me when i do my own travel research. It is based on more than 35 years of experience from the travel industry. And how i believe a customer should be counseled

The article explains why i rather go to a Retail Travel Agent, Tour Operator or direct to the supplier instead of Online Travel Agents or Hotel brokers.

Trust. It’s all about trust

Once i experienced having an email on a cancelled flight. It was the second leg that was cancelled and the message i got was that my daughter had to take the flight next day. And that the hotel night was at our own expense. And that it was the airline rule. Of course i called the airline.

Of course the over night stay was at the airlines expense and Of course the trust of the Online Travel Agency was gone as they did not care about the customer at all. Pity i think. And i have a similar and several experiences from Hotel Brokers.

So i prefer the Retail Travel Agencies where you can meet eye to eye, have a latte and relax before even talking about my trip, cheapest air fares and the best hotel rates in Manhattan.

Availability – at all times?

First of all i check how easy the travel agencies are to connect with. Pre, during and post the trip. I want to make sure they have a presence everywhere in the travel process. And that it is possible to stay connected – just like with my best friends. Tick the below boxes and you are one of my dream store to shop my travels.

1. Website

With easy access to contact details – including phone number. If it is possible to book or not on the site is not really key. Of course it is good, but for what ever i book – i might want to call or chat with the agency for further information. Therefore the contact details are more important

2. Physical office

A must. It show that they can afford to have staff and that they prioritize the physical meeting. And that is what travel is about, isn’t it? If i am behind the desk, or in front of it does not matter. Just being in an agency to discuss maybe the most important time of the year, is a very exciting experience. Traveling is a positive value added to life. That’s why we meet so many smiling faces. when booking our trip.

Best is if the agency has a physical location outside of the big metropolitan areas. People working in the big cities tends to be more under stress than agents on the country side. More time to spend with me. This is also why the contact details are important.

3. Phone

Phone number and contact details must always be visible on the Website. And there must be a human being answering and without all these endless pinball actions in…

…please select 1 for operator, select 2 for Sales select…bla bla bla.

To many companies uses the AI to make customers disappear in cyberspace

And definitely without rubbish like artificial “Emma’s” or “Anna’s”. If i call i want to talk with a person. Of course the time will come when the AI enter the industry massively. When that day comes i hope i am not here to experience it.

4. Chat

Look at other service providers today. For instance the telecom industry. really good in adapting to where customers are. So more of this would be fantastic.

And for god sake, if you state you have a chat, be there and answer to it. The worst is a robot coming back with an automatic reply “We normally reply within a few hours. In the meantime read these articles”
Either you have a chat, or not.

So, how well do you meet my requirements?

Where shall i book my Air fares and hotel?

My conclusions and recommendations where to book are the following;

Travel Agency or Tour Operators with a presence everywhere to meet everyone. Caring attitude towards the travelers. In many cases it is also a question about what guarantees and what protection I as a traveler get.

Using Airlines and hotels direct also work as they both are happy to be in contact with their customers. And they are getting really good to communicate through social media when things happens and how you shall act as a traveler

Cheap can be expensive

Whenever i travel i look for the price. Who doesn’t? But the price is not at all the factor that influence my choice. It is the the question of how big the chances are that someone would help me when things go wrong.

Some of you might state that during the COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020 the whole industry has suffered a lot. And that ordinary travel agency have problems in fulfilling their obligations. That might be true. But the pandemic 2020 does not reflect the normal, but an extremly exceptional situation.

You might remember the Ashcloud back in 2010 when Eyjafjallajokull on Iceland had an outbreak, airline industry stood still over the northern hemisphere and no one could ever think it could be worse. Or could it?

Stefan Sladden Eng

Author: Stefan Sladden Eng

Stefan Sladden Eng has more than 37 years of experience in Travel Trade. working for GDS's Travel Agents, Tour Operators, Airlines and IT Companies in the Travel Trade. The Linkedin Travel Employees Networking Group, currently with a global +42 000 members, was created and founded by him in 2008 The purpose was to be a foundation for Travel Employees around the globe to collaborate, exchange ideas, discuss and share information on interesting travel trade challenges, events jobs, job openings, content and destinations.  To support the group, Travelemployees.com was established in early 2020 as an Online Magazine & Market Portal for travel professionals. 

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