Catriona’s Travel Tips – Your Travel Questions Answered #16!

by Thursday, August 2, 2018

Question from Lisa:

Hi Catriona,

How do I find a good travel agent?

Thanks,

Lisa

Catriona’s Answer:

Hello Lisa,
I reached out to Sarah Whitty of The Hotel Connection, who (pardon the pun) has connected JTC with some great worldwide hotels and ‘lifestyle concierges’ to interview for you and Sarah advised…
Your first priority is to make sure the travel agent is AFTA accredited and you can easily google this. This is for something a little more than organising basic flights, where someone like Flight Centre can get the job done easily. But you want to know your Agent is legit, before you part with a cent. So look for that mark: AFTA.

Also, look for companies aligned with Virtuoso. This is a global travel community, based in the US, which helps connect travellers to the the world’s best travel advisors. Once again, this is an easy google search. Follow the prompts and you’ll find someone in your area.That said, I followed up this chat with Sarah’s husband, Chris McGetrick, who just happens to be an amazing travel agent, who’s company, Bayview Travel in Brighton, Victoria, is a finalist in the National Travel Industry Awards. This is water under the bridge for you and I, as Chris knows. He’s here to help us, not sell to us, so I hope it’s ok if I share with you the ideas he gave me.

Here’s Chris’s Top Tips for Looking for a travel agent: 

1. Trust. Just as people find good GPs, stockbrokers, hairdressers, etc., a good travel agent is invaluable. After all, he or she is charged with a very important asset: Your finite leisure time. If you are to engage a good travel agent they will be (or at least should be) your champion to all manner of travel suppliers. If you have only four weeks’ annual leave per year, why wouldn’t you use the services of a well-travelled, knowledgeable professional travel agent? They treat you like an individual rather than an algorithm.

2. They must be well connected and generally not too big nor too small. Find an agent who listens and understands your likes, dislikes and, of course, budget! It may take time to strike up a good rapport but it will be worth the wait! Travel planning these days is a collaborative affair and a good agent is always willing to listen and work in partnership to reach the desired result. A Virtuoso Agent, for example, is constantly being invited to information evenings, lunches, cocktails, ship inspections – to which they are often asked to bring along clients. If you have often wondered what it would be like on board one of those shiny new ocean liners as they pull into port, having a good rapport with a travel agent would be a good start. Booking online travel precludes you from a great many of these opportunities.

3. The myth that online is always cheaper is definitely not the case. A respected travel advisor will always be up-front with you. Sometimes we will cost a little more; other times a great deal less. Whatever the case, you will have a friendly voice at the other end of the phone ready to save you time, introduce products to you they know will suit you, and provide you with special benefits like free, Virtuoso room upgrades, free breakfasts and Spa credits. When you travel, unlike Mr Google, agents are there for you when natural (and unnatural) disasters strike.

4. One further thing, clearly not all agents suit all clients. The best idea for someone looking for a good agent would be to ask around your friends – those with similar travel styles, budgets and expectations. For example, a luxury traveller would do better visiting a Virtuoso Agency than Student Flights.

I hope the advice from Sarah and Chris helps, Lisa.
Enjoy ?

 

Photo of San Quirico d’Orcia, Italy, by Giuseppe Mondì on Unsplash.