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Travel Notes

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Look for certifications, experience, and a good working relationship when picking an agent

by Linda Strait

What can a travel agent do for me? For most of us, our vacation or business travel goal is simple: We want a trouble-free trip that fits our budget. Figuring out all the specifics to accomplish that goal is more confusing than ever.

A knowledgeable, thorough travel agent can help you with every concern of your trip and help you accomplish your goal.

A travel agent is a skilled professional who gathers client information and, based on his or her industry knowledge, skills and professional experience, recommends how best to handle travel needs.

Agents can compare the offerings from all airlines etc., and find what best fits your needs. Beyond reservations, agents have information on everything from inoculations, to visas, to currency, to theater tickets.

How does a travel agency work? The principal source of income for an agency is the commission paid from suppliers, such as cruise lines, hotels, tour companies, airlines, etc. Therefore, the agents' services to you, the traveler, are free.

However, the deregulation of airlines is causing changes within the industry. Many agencies charge professional fees for their specialized advice or have service charges to offset the cost of providing a service for which they are not otherwise adequately compensated.

Moreover, since agents sell the majority of travel products, they are more likely to know which good deals are available when you want them. In short, a good agent doesn't cost you more; she will cost you less by saving you time and getting the most for your money.

How can I find the right travel agent? Some people prefer small agencies because they find them more personal. Some like to use large agencies because they feel they will have greater influence when necessary; but, the single most important factor is the qualifications of the individual agent you will be dealing with.

One of the most important things you can do is to ask the advice of people you trust about agents they use. Other things to look for:

1. Select an experienced agency one that has been in business for several years and has experienced agents. Finding an agency that is a member of the American Society of Travel Agents means it has a code of ethics to which members subscribe.

Agents with CTC (certified travel consultant) designations have at least five years of experience and a minimum of 18 hours of graduate study. Working with an agent who is established in your community means that he will be there if you should encounter problems on your trip.

2. Find someone with whom you are comfortable and who listens to you.

3. A good agent will ask many questions: What are your priorities? Tastes? Frequent Flyer numbers? Any special requirements?

4. A good travel agent will contact you when your vacation is over to see how the trip went. Good or bad, your trip is a valuable source of information, and your repeat business is sought after.

Doing your part. There are no guarantees that your trip will be flawless, but the key to being a good client, and getting what you want, is being straightforward and honest. Some of the basics your agent will need to know are:

1. Choice of destination, or preferences, as well as dates you would like to travel, budget, your concerns, fears and prejudices.

2. Plan as far ahead as possible.

3. Ask yourself some key questions: Would you prefer sightseeing or resting? Travel alone or with a group? What kind of accommodations do you prefer?

Travel agents do have a level of experience and expertise to offer you, and enough resources to put together the trip you want. They work with preferred suppliers that they know and trust, with strong financial stability.

Consumers have access to tons of information. Travel agents' real value comes as a sorter of the loads of information you are bombarded with. They give it meaning, as well as saving you time.

It is your trip and your dreams the travel agent is trying to fulfill, and she can do that with your honest cooperation. With good communication, your dreams will become realities.

Travel will give you a wealth of experience and pleasure that will be with you for the rest of your life.

(Linda Strait is president of House of Travel Inc., a full-service travel agency in Springfield.)


Travel agents' real value comes as a sorter of the

loads of information you are bombarded with.[[In-content Ad]]


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