Preferred Booking Methods | TravelResearchOnline

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Preferred Booking Methods

As travel consultants, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about how our clients like to interact with us when planning their vacations: Do they prefer to do it themselves online? Should we have booking engines on our web sites to facilitate that?  Should they have to speak with us in person, or on the phone, so that we can provide more personalized service and advice? Is it best if they can get some basic information from our web site but then call us to handle the transaction?

I think it’s interesting that we spend far less time thinking about how we, as agents, like to interact with suppliers when planning a client’s vacation. This came up as a topic for discussion around the dinner table at a recent meeting of my local NACTA chapter, and it was fascinating to hear all the different viewpoints.  Some of us had a clear preference for online booking engines, others strongly believed in the value of a good call center, and (not surprisingly) it often varied depending on the type of trip being booked.

Deborah, a homebased corporate agent, said that while she uses (and likes) some of the leisure booking engines like Travel Bound, GoGo and Disney, she will never make an online booking for her business travelers. She does a lot of international air through consolidators, and has developed a relationship with a preferred supplier rep who is always accommodating and helpful with her complicated itineraries.


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Linda, another agent who values the relationships she has developed with supplier reps, said “Online bookings are good for simple clearcut vacations, a quick price quote, or to check on existing bookings. The only positive thing I can think about in regards to online booking is that it’s 24/7. I think you need and want that connection with another person…it comes down to building relationships in a relationship business.”

I have to admit that I was in the minority in this group, since I almost always choose online bookings over picking up the phone and calling a supplier. While I do have a couple of niche suppliers where I’ve developed a personal relationship with a rep who can help me with custom itineraries, I have also found myself frustrated and annoyed by supplier reps who don’t add any additional insight and value to the booking, don’t respond in a timely manner, and can’t be trusted to get the details right. So, in this fast-paced, 24/7 world, I much prefer to go online and do it myself.

What do you think? Are you a do-it-yourselfer hoping that suppliers will continue to invest in user-friendly online booking engines? Or are you a “people person” who would prefer that suppliers invest in a well-trained, well-compensated call center staff?
Ann Petronio is a travel consultant and the owner of Annie’s Escapes, Inc. in Cranston, Rhode Island. She creates custom-tailored vacations for busy couples, families and groups. www.AnniesEscapes.com

  7 thoughts on “Preferred Booking Methods

  1. Chris Alderson says:

    Hi Ann,
    I am the old fashioned type of agent who still loves to have some printed brochures and good
    telephone relationships with suppliers. 23 years ago when I first started I worked with an agent
    from GWV (now Apple) and I didn’t care if she
    couldn’t return my calls for 2 or 3 hours. I knew
    that I could trust all the information given to me.

  2. Cindy Walker says:

    Online booking is a wonderful, time-saving tool that generally allows us to see all of the available options and keeps us in control of the details of the booking. That said, for more complex trips and destinations that we don’t know as well, nothing can substitute for a reliable, knowledgeable supplier who we can talk with directly. So–we really need both methods, easy-to-use websites and well-trained staff are both essential.

  3. Cindy R says:

    I prefer online booking for the same reasons as Ann, however, when faced with a destination I need some guidance, a good rep is invaluable.

    Regarding the second to the last paragraph–instead of agents to suppliers, this insight is much the same way consumers view us!!! Think about it…..are you guilty of any of these (common) mistakes?

  4. Angela says:

    Unless it’s a simple air reservation, I think working with a live person who is expert in her/his field is invaluable.

    I have suppliers that know me and know how to work efficiently,,,,no time wasted. Ofcourse email has taken the place of most coversation today between suppliers and clients unfortunately.

  5. PATTI S. says:

    I PREFER A LIVE PERSON WHEN BOOKING MY CLIENTS TRIPS. THERE IS A COMMON RESPECT BETWEEN BOTH PARTIES THAT YOU CAN’T GET FROM AN ONLINE BOOKING ENGINE.
    MY CLIENTS CAN SEEK INFORMATION ONLINE BUT ALWAYS COME TO ME FOR MY EXPERTISE. I HAVE BEEN AROUND THIS EVER CHANGING INDUSTRY FOR 25 YEARS. I BELIEVE THESE COMPANIES HAVE LOST SOMETHING WHEN WE HAVE TO HAND OUR CLIENTS PAPER DOCS. THEY LOOK CHEAP AND AFTER ALL CLIENTS SPEND ALOT OF MONEY OF THEIR TRIPS. LET’S SHOW THEM SO RESPECT.

  6. Geoff Millar says:

    We use the on-line booking method more than any other way. With the products we sell we know what we want to price and research down to what flights we are looking for so it is much easier and faster to go on-line and do this than call explain what we want, and wait fire them to price things. Since we do not use the tour operators for research at all, in fact we have had tour operators call us to get our opinion on certain resorts, we do almost everything online. A lot of tour operators also are now paying an additional percentage if you do everything online.

  7. I book online 95% of the time, but I call payments in, or if I need changes made or have questions, I’ll call preferred suppliers. I’ve formed strong working relationships that way, and it has really helped broaden my knowledge of the products I sell.

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