This weekend, an article on the Forbes magazine website got my blood boiling. A “tech journalist and Internet safety advocate” named Larry Magid wrote an article titled “Why I Hate Travel Agencies.” And he went on to explain his position, as misguided as I thought it to be. As a travel professional, it is frustrating when someone paints the entire industry with a broad brush. There are good and bad people in every industry. But, it’s even worse when the justifications are…well, unjustified.
Magid starts out by telling us what an experienced business traveler he is and how he likes to book his travel online at Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity. That’s fine. Some people are great with DIY travel, and the online travel agencies are nothing more than agents who merely take orders. I guess he is not aware that Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia are also travel agencies. I find it amusing that while he claims to be at the Diamond level with Delta (which indicates some loyalty), he does not appear to have any toward the three agencies he uses to book his travel.
Mr. Magid continues to explain how his bad experiences are “so frequent” and how he has been “forced” to use a travel agency four times in the past year and how badly they messed up.
- Wanted to fly on Delta on specific flights. Was ticketed on Delta via Al Italia code share and was unable to upgrade. I asked if he explained this to the agent and explained that without the knowledge they likely booked it in a manner where they could earn an over ride. He admitted that my point was valid.
- The travel agency would not ticket his itinerary. He is a contractor and the agency said it needed to be done by corporate. Corporate said to call the agency. This seemed like a miscommunication and that the company likely had a policy in place with the agency (as most do) not allowing third parties to initiate or change transactions. The communication break down was likely on the part of the company. The agency was likely only doing what they were contracted to do. He also admitted that this was a valid point.
- He found a hotel cheaper than the quoted rate for a convention in Vegas. I explained that he was probably correct; but that the cheaper rate was not the negotiated rate that would have needed to cover food costs, complimentary rooms, meeting space, AV needs, break costs, and amenities. Again, he acquiesced that this was a valid point.
- His final point was a legitimate mistake. A ticket was issued in the wrong name. His first and last names were reversed. I explained that it was a fairly common mistake (and yes it is a mistake), but had he contacted the agent when he noticed it, it would have been easily resolved by noting the record in advance of travel. Ultimately it was resolved at security without much trouble. He also mentioned that people have ticketed him as “Larry Magid” and not “Lawrence Magid.” Again, a sharp agent should be questioning the name since he does commonly go by “Larry”; but to a degree, the client also has some responsibility to inform the agent of his full legal name. How many “Butch”, “Betty”, and “Frankies” have we mistakenly ticketed?
I took him to task on the article (as did many other agents) and he did respond, but stopped short of taking a step backward and admitting a mistake. He said the article was about being “forced” to use a travel agency; yet the title was “Why I Hate Travel Agencies.” All of them!
Unfortunately, after an all too brief love affair with the media last year, the travel industry seems to have worn out its welcome. Largely due to the repeated incidents with Carnival ships, the media is looking for any possibly angle to trash the industry. I do not see it letting up any time soon. Just this past week I have seen that Carnival failed a CDC inspection, they refuse to cooperate with the US Congress and Celebrity Cruise Lines just had a tour group in St. Lucia held up by armed gunmen. As professionals, we know that most of these incidents are one-off problems and the travel types and destinations we sell are, for the most part, very safe and enjoyable.
It is critical that we, as an industry, keep an eye on our collective reputation and professionally respond to the wayward, and oft wrong, criticism. Set up a Google alert, become involved, and challenge false accusations and assertions, leave comments. Let’s show the media that there is a lot of good in the travel industry, and let Mr. Magid know that his opinion may be a little off center as well.