It's the 2020s - Should I still use a travel agent?
I can plan everything on my own. Right?
In a time where technology is literally at our fingertips, travelling could not be made anymore easier for everyone. Want to book a flight to Korea? Skyscanner is right there for you. Need a hotel at the last minute? Booking.com has you covered. For those of us who has grown up in an era of airline apps, community generated review sites and online booking platforms, the concept of using a travel agent is an anachronism – the vestige of a third-party middlemen services that has been eliminated by the World Wide Web and technology.
Or have they?
The “extinction of travel agents” has been touted since the emergence of international travel names like Expedia. But surprisingly though, the travel advising industry continues to survive and contrary to popular belief, thrive. In fact, more travellers, particularly millennials and business travellers are turning to travel agents rather than the internet to help with their travel arrangements and vacations.
Recent research by travel and hospitality marketing firm MMGY Global found that 33% of millennials are more likely to hire travel agents compared to baby boomers or Gen Xers. Millennials is the fastest growing segment to use travel agencies today. This is because travel agencies continue to offer immerse value for certain types of travel on top of their expertise, business relationships and problem-solving skills in the area.
Of course, to cater to its budding market segment of millennials and free independent travellers (FIT), travel agents too must change and adapt with the times. Mobile-friendly websites and responsive social media channels are the first impressions that today’s tech-savy travellers subconsciously look out for. No longer are these travellers hunting for guided tour packages but rather ready-to-purchase packages deals that can be customised and tweaked to their desires. FIT don’t want the usual rigid structure with every hour of a trip planned out for them. They want time to reflect and explore – a sort of self-exploration time in a finely curated adventure.
For the new generation of travellers, it’s about that unique experience that changes you, a concept that grows in appeal. According Vox, “It’s about emotional and physical health and wellness; it’s about exclusivity; it’s about having experiences off the beaten path. Welcome to “transformative travel,” where a trip is the only thing standing between you and Your New Self.” A travel agent understands that and can cater to your personal wishlist accordingly. Want to swim with dolphins during your 4D3N free and easy trip to Perth? They can make it happen.
“When the Covid-19 issue erupted, our agent, Grace Marie was very reactive and got us a flight home within 24 hours. We are ultimately grateful.” said Ravin Raj about his honeymoon to Europe.
If you’re planning a honeymoon, you certainly wouldn’t want anything to go wrong. That would be suicidal. How about planning a trip for a large group of people from the office? That’s where engaging a travel agent comes in handy. The internet can make it easier to make your own plans but with it comes information overload. Thanks to years of experience and expertise, travel agents can tell you what works and what won’t, based on your travel style. Travel agents have information at their fingertips. Information that would usually take a normal traveller hours or days to sift through on the internet.
"Many thanks to our Tour Leader Mr Gary Oh from Sedunia Travel and our local guide Mr Andrew for helping out during the tour from ensuring the logistics, hotel and food were done well. Everything went smoothly."said Dr Loke from the Perak Medical Practitioners' Society about his group trip to Myammar.
Travel agents have connections and relationships with airlines, hotels and activity organisers that DIY solo travellers do not have. Say you want to run the Tokyo Marathon but didn't get in through the ballot system. A travel agent affiliated with the organiser will be able to help you with that. These connections also often include a network of locals that can provide an added localised experience to the traveller, cheaper rates and the insider’s tracker to a more holistic experience abroad. Amidst the chatter of the internet, travellers want someone to say, “Don’t do that. I recommend this instead,” hence the role of the travel agent.
"We had an amazing trip thanks to our Sedunia Travel agent, Ms. Julia Wong and just loved all the point of interests and itineraries she proposed for our company trip to Jeju Island. Her thoughtfulness and follow up in details were impeccable." shared Lim Chee Kian, IT Manager of his trip to Jeju, South Korea.
Travel agents are also ideal for those who don’t want to handle the logistics of the trip themselves. Say you want to embark on a cruise to Antarctica that requires flying into one of several departure ports such as Ushuaia or Hobart. A travel agent would be able to advice on the best departure port, sort out the ground arrangements before and after the cruise from hotels to flights on top of arranging the actual cruise itself. All you need to do is turn up with your passport and luggage.
Travel agents can offer a peace of mind and more. Due to their connections, a travel agent might even be able to secure complimentary room upgrades, meals, airport transfers and amenities that can add value to the vacation. On top of that, travel agents can also sort out the nitty-gritty details like insurance, passport requirements, visa, self-drives in foreign countries, customs, cultures and the dos and don’ts. (But should you get arrested on vacation, don’t call your travel agent. Call the Malaysian embassy instead. Your agent will have the contact details at hand)
Shiqin Syed Mustafa spoke of her holiday in China, "There were days where we roamed on our own, our tour guide Ms Mei, arranged by Sedunia Travel, provided information such as bus number and metro stations and where we can find halal foods and restaurants around the hotel. She was well-informed of practices in Islam."
And who do you call should anything and everything goes wrong? Your travel agent of course. Leveraging on their unique position and relationship in the industry, a travel agent’s greatest asset is their ability to problem-solve and troubleshoot for their clients in real time even as the situation changes. Many travellers could testify that in times in trouble, even the internet cannot substitute a knowledgeable, reliable and experienced travel agent. That real human connection to their client makes all the difference.
I have been using Sedunia for a few years now. Despite the modern convenience of online travel booking, work and time constraints sometimes do not allow me the luxury of trawling the net. Safura at Sedunia Travel is always willing to help even when the service I require is only advisory in nature," said traveller Ann Musa.
In times of crisis, the agent's relationship with hoteliers and airlines and internal agreements are what makes obtaining that refund or credits so much easier. Yes, it may take time to get back your money due to the many hoops and policy agreements but at least, it's not you who has to navigate your way through those hoops to get your money back.
Engaging the services of a travel agent can kick start your holiday off on a positive note. At Sedunia Travel, their travel agents are ready to help you sate your wanderlust and plan your stress-free vacation. Check out www.seduniatravel.com or www.sedunia.com.my for travel inspirations and packages.