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A Travel Agent…. Really? Aren't they extinct?

Welcome back to Philip James Travel! 

As I write and send this weekly newsletter article to you, I am looking east as the sun climbs above the mountain peaks and clouds of the ambiguous line between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, as I spend a precious week celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. Sixty years ago, after several mountain getaway trips to the small western North Carolina town of Waynesville, my grandparents decided to build a summer home half-way up Eagle's Nest Mountain, and now 2 and 3 generations later, my extended family continues to call our beloved "Trail's End" home for all-too-brief, but still heavenly getaways from our routine lives back in southeast Louisiana. My grandparents didn't use a travel agent to retreat to Waynesville, but they certainly did for their extensive trips. After some rocky times over the last few decades, travel agents (advisors or consultants as many prefer to be called) are indeed here and at your service, and I'd like to give you a little insight into why we really do still exist. 

My journey from selling travel experiences (bucket list hotels, rail journeys, and safaris) to travel agents and transitioning my passion for travel to selling to discerning travelers has been a journey of discovery. On this path, many people have commented that they thought travel agents went the way of the dodo bird. And even if they're not extinct, why in this web-dominated world of being able to book one's own travel online would one choose to hire a travel agent? The short but truthful answer is this: time, money, and expertise. But looking at it more in-depth, the longer answer is something like this: 

The travel agent as many people think of them from years past were ladies (and maybe an odd man here or there) who sat in a storefront travel agency where travelers could come and see travel posters adorning the walls, along with large maps, and racks and racks of brochures to peruse to find travel inspiration. Pre world wide web, if you wanted to book a plane ticket, unless you knew that you only wanted to fly Delta Airlines, or Braniff, or Piedmont, you had to call a travel agent if you wanted to shop the carriers, routes and fares; and then they printed you a mystical, code-laden ticket that you could barely understand. And unless you were planning to book a Howard Johnson's or Holiday Inn which were nearly everywhere, once again, you were pretty much obligated to call a travel agent or visit a AAA office.

Then in the 90's, the world wide web came around with opportunities to DIY your travel with OTAs (online travel agencies). For the first time, travelers had direct access to a variety of travel suppliers' inventories and rates. Except for the business travel segment, you started to see travel agents being less and less crucial to the leisure travel booking equation. Consumers now had the ability to build and purchase their vacations without needing a lady in a storefront agency. The savings were not significant to the traveler, but the experience was something they could do on their own. It truly was DIY.

Fast forward to the last decade or so when travel content is so prolific online, and hotel chains and online travel agencies are often at battle with one another over who can offer the best deals, that the online space has become so cluttered and confusing with too much information. Not everyone wants to DIY their vacations and bucket list travel. For discerning travelers who seek not only value but time savings and expertise in finding the right experiences to suit their needs and desires, it has come around full circle for the consumer to once again work with travel professionals. Except now we are called travel advisors. 

The name travel advisor (and consultant) tells you what this modern iteration of the profession does in contrast to the storefront agent. Today's travel professional goes well beyond the transactional side of booking travel. It is now much more about a consultative and collaborative process between the client and the advisor that begins with the all-important first call. It then carries through all the way to the after-travel review. Just as a Financial Advisor is expected to bring you a monetary return on your portfolio of investments, so too is your Travel Advisor expected to deliver a return on your travel aspirations. I'd love to help you turn your dreams into reality. Won't you give me a call, and let me help you travel well?

Strategies and Tips for Using a Travel Professional

• Don't be afraid to give your travel consultant a budget. We want to make sure we are looking at the right location and amenities for you. Every trip is different. Some are for special occasions. Let us know if you are celebrating a special moment in your life. We would like to do something special for you, as well. 

• If you want something changed on a presented itinerary, let us know. We are here to serve you. If you love something, let us know that, too. We want your trip to be special for you! 

• If you need more clarification, simply ask. We are always happy to answer all your questions. 

• Please give feedback after you arrive back home. We love to hear about your trip! We want to know what you loved and what was not your favorite. This will help us plan for your next trip! 



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