We like Aunt Barbara. We really do. She’s a great gal and everyone loves being around her. She tells great jokes and is always sharing her latest recipe at parties. She’s the one relative we all look forward to seeing at Thanksgiving.
Aunt Barb rocks.
But what do you say when she offers to plan your upcoming vacation?
It sounds pretty good. She has gone on some great trips. She has always loved traveling. She knows her way around Google and TripAdvisor like no one’s business. She always finds a deal. And she just signed up to “become a travel agent.”
Awesome. It sounds too good to be true! And it’s totally understandable to consider it. After all, who wouldn’t like to save some time, effort and have their vacation all planned out? What could possibly go wrong?
The problem with this scenario is that many (if not most) clients will have the same expectations of Aunt Barb as they do with a professional travel planner. After all, anybody can be a travel agent, right? And if that’s true, why not let Aunt Barb handle it all and save yourself some hassle and maybe some money?
It’s true that anyone can search Google, read TripAdvisor, and work an online booking engine. The airlines and suppliers have made sure of that. But it’s a wholly different thing to have them deliver the experience most travelers expect. While Aunt Barb will certainly find you a destination, will it be the destination for you? Aunt Barb will find a beachfront resort for you. But will she know that a Mahogany Tide rolls in each night along with its oppressive smells? Aunt Barb will find a hotel with a four star restaurant attached to the lobby. But will she know that it is scheduled to close for renovations just before your arrival? Aunt Barb will find a “tropical paradise” for your honeymoon. But will she know that the same “tropical paradise” is also the preferred paradise for 200 spring breakers?
Obviously, the difference begins to come to light. Off the top of my head, here are a few things where a professional travel planner will excel over Aunt Barb.
A professional travel planner may have….
- Traveled to the destination personally and can offer first hand advice.
- Spent years or decades studying geography, travel styles, and lifestyles for experiences that fir their clients.
- Participated in multiple continuing education programs throughout the year.
- Cruised on dozens of cruise lines—not ships.
- Personally know the concierges and general managers at key properties.
- Know how to work the GDS to find the best value for their clients.
- Has a network of other professional whom they trust to seek additional advice.
- Knows the best and most efficient routing of flights to maximize a client’s experience.
- Understands that there are many airports in Washington, London, and Paris and how to navigate them.
- Based on experience, can strongly suggest alternatives to a client’s initial desires.
- Is not focused on earning a commission but creating the ideal experience for the client.
- Is focused on making a fair and reasonable profit.
- Treats their business as a business and not a hobby.
Do you have some more to add to the list? Please leave a comment.