As the vacation season approaches, you will notice a maddening rush for booking family vacations. It is quite natural for one to search for a value for money travel deal that offers maximum excitement and luxury. Travel agents and online booking sites are prominent contenders that offer the best deals to travelers. This post will help you choose the right option for making bookings for your vacation.
With a whopping growth in the use of the Internet in the last decade, we have seen a gradual transition in methods used for customer service, from the traditional to booking online. In line with this trend, the tourism industry is gradually expanding in the form of online travel booking facilities too. I have listed below some pros and cons of booking with help of a travel agent as well as online travel websites. Hope this helps you to choose the right option.
Booking Online Vs. Travel Agents
With the advent of the Internet, a customer’s approach to the travel industry has undergone a drastic change. With help of facilities like online payment services, all bookings can now be done at the click of a button right in the comfort of one’s home.
✔ Customers just need to hint their travel destination onto a search engine and a dizzying list of online travel booking sites and hotel websites will start showing up on the screen. Each site is designed in a user-friendly manner which helps customers browse and choose the best possible holiday deal. If that is not enough, customers can now choose their airplane seats and take a virtual tour of their hotel room even before they have paid for their trip. Online bookings can surely woo their customers by adding a visual factor to their booking techniques.
✔ Online booking facilities are available around the clock and help customers to plan a holiday or book an emergency rail or airline ticket at any time and from any place. Once the booking is done, there is a prompt issuance of an invoice, itinerary and e-tickets to the customer as an assurance of the booking. Frequent business fliers have found these facilities extremely useful as they can plan their business trips from remote locations too.
✔ Online bookings provide a wider exposure to customers with reference to travel destinations, customer referrals, sight-seeing activities and so on. This means that customers looking for online bookings can easily book their holidays at some virgin coasts and other less explored locations around the world. Since these online sites are browsed by customers from around the world, there is a wider scope for reading comments and suggestions posted by previous travelers.
✘ Every technology has its disadvantages and so does online bookings. While the Internet offers good reviews and comments of some supposed previous travelers, there is no guarantee that the names and positive comments are authentic. The travel agent on the other hand, tends to make a suggestion based on his personal experience and quotes by his previous customers.
✘ With a huge scale of frauds and Internet crimes taking place, online booking sites are not far behind. There are several well-designed sites that offer to do online bookings for their customers. They offer fake reviews and holiday discounts to lure customers. There is a high chance of innocent customers booking a holiday or an airplane ticket through these sites. These sites generally issue fake itineraries and tickets after the payment is made. Preference for online bookings demands that customers stay alert and ensure authenticity of the online booking sites before proceeding with any transaction.
✘ Online booking sites are designed to make the customers feel that they have got the cheapest travel deal on offer. However, the grim reality is that the commission, taxes and hidden charges on online booking sites are way higher than traditional travel agents.
These refer to the traditional traveling and ticketing agents who guide the customer to plan their holidays and business trips in return for a fixed commission. If you plan to book a trip through an agent, make sure to confirm that he possesses any of the following certifications – IATA, UFTAA, ASTA, USTOA, or TAP.
✔ Someone has rightly said that travel agents act like their customer’s advocate or representative when dealing with bookings in the travel industry. It is often seen that travel agents suggest a particular hotel or airline to their new customers based on traveling industry reports or upon feedback of their previous customers. In all, there is a personal assurance of quality of services to the customers from a travel agent. In case of any deflection from the expected service standards, the travel agent works as an advocate to get a suitable compensation and reimbursement for his customers.
✔ There is a sense of personalized touch when dealing with a travel agent. Most customers have only a faint idea about ideal holiday destinations. Travel agents then try to understand the customers’ needs. With the aid of their experience in the travel industry, they can guide their customers and draw up customized itineraries for their clients. A travel agent may recommend his customers to plan a holiday at a place depending upon a favorable season at that tourist destination.
✔ Travel agents are very helpful when you’re trying to add a variety of components to your trip. e.g. airline booking, local sight-seeing, airport transfers, hotel bookings etc. Most travel agents are in constant touch with airline companies and hotels, and this tie-up can help improve chances of getting a mass scale booking even on short notice.
✘ The choice of airlines, hotels, and destination services such as cab services or restaurant choices can be limited as travel agents tend to have tie-ups with a limited number of service providers. There are many regular travelers who feel that travel agents tend to suggest commonly tried hotels and resorts rather than exploring and providing diverse options to their customers.
✘ There are several customers around the world who feel that suggestions of travel agents are based on commissions and profitability. It is common for a travel agent to press his customer into opting for a hotel booking from which the agent is likely to get a higher commission both from the hotel as well as the customer.
✘ Travel agencies are manually run by people. Except for bookings which get done on the internet, most of the other work is done verbally. Therefore, this profession can never be guaranteed to be error free.
I suggest all my readers to hire services of a reputed travel agent when planning a long and expensive holiday. Personally, I strike a golden balance by using the online booking sites to browse for some really attractive destinations and best rated hotels. I even use some reputed online sites to make my rail and flight bookings and ask my travel agent to make arrangements for local sight-seeing. I make sure to choose a hotel or resort after a careful discussion with my travel agent. This way, I use both options to my best possible benefit.