When Anne Roderique-Jones compiled a list of “Ten Things Travel Agents Won’t Tell You,” for Women’s Day Magazine a week ago, she couldn’t have known that her piece would generate nearly 1,400 comments, many of them from irate travel agents. But travel agents are a beleaguered lot, their ranks thinned dramatically since the dawn of the digital age, and they don’t like getting kicked around. In addition to the avalanche of critical comments from travel agents beneath the story, the American Society of Travel Agents responded with a list of their own, “Eight Reasons Why Travel Professionals Create Value.”
I think the Women’s Day list, which was pared from 10 items down to 9 after the magazine admitted that a point about travel agents collecting commissions from airlines was inaccurate, is mostly common sense stuff that wouldn’t be news to most savvy travelers. Obviously travel agents do receive some commissions, may not have been to the place they are recommending and cannot always secure the best prices, but does that mean that they serve no real purpose in the Internet age?
I’ve traveled all over the world and have very rarely used travel agents, even before the invention of the Internet. But I still think that travel agents serve a useful purpose, particularly for infrequent travelers. A good travel agent can do a lot more than just get you the best price. They can offer advice on the best routes, pitfalls to watch out for, baggage restrictions, how to travel with pets and 1,000 other things. If you have all the time in the world to research every last detail of a trip on your own, you may not need a travel agent. But if you’re short on time and don’t travel often enough to know all the nuances, it makes a lot of sense to trust a professional to plan the trip for you.