Are Travel Agents Back?

In the age of apps, travel agents can seem a bit quaint. Yet the industry is showing signs of growth. We profiled six rising stars to learn why, and to find out what they can do for you.

Comments: 73

  1. Travel agents are good, but in the end you will pay a premium for their services. The best bet is check out some of the the travel hacking blogs like http://www.frequentflyeruniversity.com

    For example, thanks to Visa, you can currently get Hyatt Platinum status for FREE . With these free elite status offers, you can get many of the in-room benefits like free wi-fi and breakfast, that you would have to pay for with a travel agent.

  2. My agent books with all my awards / levels ..... why would one be paying more? In fact since the record is open and rechecked -- I often get reductions. I had to go to LA last week -- the hotel upgraded me to a small suite because it was available and my agent sends lot of people to the hotel - I never would have received that on a one-off trip.

    If you travel often ... having someone else do it is a pleasure.

  3. Travel agents never went away, they just became invisible to the media. Here's what happened.

    Those 34,000 retail locations Ms. Higgins mentioned existed because the airlines required travel agents to maintain commercial premises as a condition for selling airline tickets. Then airlines stopped paying commission to travel agents. Many travel agents asked themselves, "Why do I need to pay this high overhead when I can sell high ticket, high margin products like cruises and tours from home?"

    Many agencies closed their doors and went home. What I like to call the home-based travel revolution was born. These home-based travel agencies, which are legally separate businesses from the 'host agencies" though which they funnel bookings, comprise former agency owners, former agency employees, and a growing number of entrepreneurs who started their careers working from home. Most of them don't sell airline tickets, preferring to concentrate on cruises, tours, and bespoke travel consulting. That's where the money is.

    The idea that you can always get the best deal on the 'Net has always been a myth, albeit a myth that the media was more than happy to nurture. Kudos to Ms. Higgins for getting it right.

  4. Last year I organised a one month trip to India with a car and driver, guides in each city and staying in Heritage hotels, which are old palaces. The cost quoted by an American agent was $25000 for three of us, the cost using an Indian travel agency was $10000. Since the US agency would have almost certainly subcontracted most of the trip to an Indian agency it is clear that there are some pretty steep markups.

  5. Any chance you could post the name the Indian travel agency you used? I find there are very, very few travel agents who know anything about India, and I can't find enough other people who have used them to be able to book with confidence. I've been to India many times, but with the exception of my very first trip I've always booked it myself. Any help you — or anyone else — can give would be greatly appreciated!

  6. I did a trip to Africa last year --- I could never have put the trip together myself and have it come out as flawless as it did. With the travel websites -- what you don't know ...will cost you. A travel agent can cross check so many variables.

    I'm going to the Amaifi coast in a few months. My best plan had me going through Rome from NY and taking the train ...... when I mentioned that I wanted to do a day trip to Capri ... may agent said forget that..... fly through Munich to Naples and take the ferry to Capri and stay a few days .. you can ferry directly to the Amalfi coast. The flights are cheaper -- it is easier route and now I get to go to Munich on the other end for a few days. -- and Capri for more than a day. Happy

  7. Geez some people have money to burn. Part of the fun of taking a vacation is planning on the web.

  8. The last paragraph is for the top 1%. The rest is for the top 10 or 15 %. Most people, however, cannot afford these specialty travel agents because they cannot afford that level of travel.

  9. I agree with the trend away from on-your-own to travel agents, since thats the way I myself am going. My agent, Donna, works with/for Atlantic Fellowship in Washington DC.

  10. What this article doesn't address is that many travel agents today are home-based agents and won't be found through the traditional "brick-and-mortar" agencies. Also, most of the travel agents I know don't charge a fee and work strictly off commission from the suppliers. Many people have it in their heads that using a travel agent will cost them more, which is almost never the case since the commission comes out of what the supplier would receive.

  11. We recently finished a trip to Norway, Sweden, Finland and England in 19 days with my husband and two daughters in their 20s. It would not have been possible to make this trip happen with out our amazing agent. I tried to book somethings and then I realized that what I wanted to accomplish was not like booking a trip from Newark to Miami. The trip was wonderful, because we were visiting our daughter who was living in Finland and we had her meet us in Norway, from Norway we toured Sweden then at the end of the trip two of us traveled to England while the other two stayed in Finland. Everything was priced right and worked with clock like precision. It would not have happened with out our travel agent and the charge was $75.00 per person! Amazing and essential. I am sold on capable travel agents.

  12. Merci, grazie, gracias, thank you for letting the world know we are alive and well! It is especially pleasing to see younger professionals coming into our arena. As a 26 year industry veteran, it's fun to think about to whom my hard-earned knowledge, experience, contacts, tips and insider secrets will get passed on in a few years. It's a joy to be able to enhance and add value to client trips.

    Sally Watkins! CTC
    Century Travel and Cruises, Austin, TX

  13. When going to Peru, I used a recommendation from the annual "best travel agent" issue of Travel and Leisure. Doing everything by e-mail, I got us a fantastic tour guide (with excellent English) who specialized in folk art and a driver for the one day we had in Lima (we were on a cruise). They pulled up to the ship and took us on a fabulous day trip including a hot place for lunch. Couldn't be easier and we were delighted with the experience.

  14. The polar extremes of travel are -

    on one side - rooms sold as commodities at the lowest price but stripped of most everything other than four walls and a bed (but how cheap was your room?)

    and on the other side - rooms sold as the location of personal experiences, where price is not as important as the quality of service where your room becomes a base of operations.

    Travel Agents are becoming the opposite of Tour Operators - or particularly the Online Tour Operators like Tavelocity or Expedia - where they focus on Your personal needs, and finding and delivering the best combination of product and service so You get just what You want.

    After all, the greatest non renewable resource of our lives is time - and why waste your time in exchange for saving a couple of bucks? Isn't it better to get higher quality than just lower quality?

  15. Interesting article but it jumped out from the photo and personal stats that all of these the writer selected are young people. What's up with this? I know one agent with almost thirty years' experience who has traveled just about everywhere himself on the planet several times, and helped with trips for royal familes and everyday folks. He is not the only one like this, I'm sure, with more experience than two or three of the nice young agents shown here combined. No disrespect to them. Yet a patently biased article on age and experience.

  16. Because the entire point of the article is that travel agents are "back", not that they're still working.

  17. Maybe the author was trying to make travel agents more 'hip' and current, rather than implying that it is an old profession, whose time has come and gone.

    Like you, I noticed that all the examples used were young agents and like you wondered if the article was biased in favor of youth. Not being so young myself, I know I would seek the advice of an agent who had more practical travel experience under their belt. I'm not as apt to be swayed by the agent who is a whiz with all the latest tech bells and whistles.

    I was happy to read that travel agents will be around, that there is an influx of young people into the profession.

  18. Travel agents are missing a growing niche: Older clients who want to travel with as much comfort as possible and little hassle. . . special cruises that pay attention to the needs of the elderly who are interested in having experiences worth the cost.
    Attention paid to individual needs; personal assistance; amenities necessary to make it easier to visit destination stops, such as escorts to points of interest, etc.

  19. Are they or aren't they? Titles published as questions are rather annoying and sound like a poor gimmick. IMHO.

  20. Yes I could do all the booking from the web but will not save much afterall. Travel agents are (in it...) all days long and know what they are talking about as they've often seen the destination and can bring a personal view. Yes I do deal with travel agents.

  21. Lea Ann Fulton of AAA Texas came to our rescue in August when American Airlines canceled our flight from Amarillo to DFW at 3:15a.m. We were to make connections to Fairbanks for the start of our 50th anniversary trip and an early train ride to Denali the next day. The AA staff would not help us. I called Lea Ann at home at 4a.m. and she immediately went to her office. She called back at 5:30a.m. and had made connections from Amarillo to Denver to Los Angeles to Seattle and Fairbanks.
    Lea Ann saved our trip and lowered my blood pressure. I will always use Lea Ann as my travel agent in future trips. And I'll never fly AA again.

  22. Sorry, but it is difficult for me to see a travel agent's value-added for a consumer like me. It seems like the bulk of what they do is luxury-concierge service, which is not what I and many average consumers are looking for. I don't really need an agent to negotiate with a hot luxury hotel to waive their minimum stay requirements or to design a custom soundtrack for my flight.

    Most average consumers are looking for basic services, such as booking a flight, hotel, and maybe a rental car. All of these can be done very easily and cheaply online. No special education or training is required.

    So, to be honest, I don't see a future for travel agency, beyond becoming a niche product for wealthy clients, much like personal shoppers or concierge services.

  23. $100k + $25k/yr for travel booking? I'm sure there are value-added services but it would take a lot of value to account for that. Decadence is the sign of a declining empire and I have a feeling we're there.

  24. When it comes to travel advice, there is a lid for every pot. But few need a $100,000 lid. That smacks of people with too many dollars and not enough sense.

  25. I always use a travel agent.....the only thing I ever book myself are mileage reward tickets. When you travel in Europe and Asia its the only wayt to go. They have relationships with properties all over the world and you get treated like family everywhere.

    I highly recommend it.

  26. I have used a travel agent for all but the simpliest trips for years. It would have been worth it simply because he can hold an airline reservation for days (or weeks) while we wait for the price to come down and then rebook at the lower price, which we have done numerous times. In addition, a travel agent sees many options on their screens that we, the public, never see. This enables him to book better flights and hotels at prices substantially below what the general public is offered as we trawl the internet. Simply put, my travel has saved me thousands and thousands of dollars over the past couple of decades and has been able to secure bookings and reservations for me on flights and in hotels that I never would have be able to secure on my own.
    Then, there are the hours and hours of time that I save because I'm not doing any of the work sitting in front of my computer hunting for flights, fares, and hotels. My travel agent is doing it.
    And there are some things that my travel agent gets done that are impossible for me to accomplish. Changing planes in Heathrow with a five hour layover? My travel agent messages BA directly and I'm met at the gate and escorted to one of the select lounges where excellent food and drink are provided free during my time there in Terminal 5.
    How 'bout arranging for private transportation on a moments notice to shuttle me to Denver when the Aspen airport was shutdown due to inclement weather...and getting the airline to pay for it!

  27. With my busy work schedule working on Wall Street, I had the most wonderful experience with Zicasso.com and Extraordinary Journey Africa booking a trip to Cape Town South Africa and a Safari. They were able to put together several options and a trip to remember. I would definitely recommend them to all my friends and family. I think that Travel Agents have the best recommendations and resources available.

  28. Zicasso is a broker for travel agents, not a travel agency. Simply another layer in the travel industry. They take a cut from whomever agent you choose of the agents that contact you via their site.

  29. My answer to that question would be; I hope not. - I have never encountered difficulty finding cheap flights online and resent the idea that I should have to go along to an agent to find them for me. Broadly speaking, I think that travel agents are an anachronism, but more along the lines of fax machines than telex machines - there's still life in them, and still demand for them, but not for much longer.

  30. Actually, the article was about agents doing more than browsing for cheap flights.

  31. In these days of virtual engagement there is a high need for engaging With the customer to ensure a sustainable business.

    Sadly in the world of traveling (somewhat similar to other service type industries) engagement with the customer seems to have ended soon after the travel ticket cash is transacted. The transaction in reality has just began with the payment as the true service lasts from the point of sale to the passenger's return to their point of departure with all baggage pieces intact.

    On an average there seems to be about 27 touch points in a customer's international travel process based on my experience. The investment the customer makes in the journey includes addressing all of these aspects either to their satisfaction or expectations.

    In this virtual world this doesn't happen as the personal touch is virtually lost in the transportation.

    This new trend of travel agents returning to deliver value is likely to last for those agents that monitor and deliver through the entire cycle of engagement. If these agents failmtomsustain their delivery of expectations, let alone delight the customers, either the trend shifts back or customers.

    So far the agent experience is merely "satisfactory" with one international trip complete with the second one ongoing.

    Wishing all the customers and agents a great success in 2012 and beyond.

    Shree

  32. I travel domestically and internationally for leisure. I make all of my own arrangements, except when I am planning a trip to Walt Disney World. Disney releases discount codes throughout the year and there are also surprisingly tight deadlines for prime dining reservations. I don't have time to constantly monitor the web for the latest discount or sit on hold with dining reservation agents. Using a Disney specialist travel agent has been a real time saver. I've been working with the same agent for the past seven years and she has saved me thousands of dollars by applying discount codes to my reservation as soon as they are released and offering me agency exclusive deals. The special gifts, which have ranged from complimentary limousine transfers to gift cards, are also a treat that I would not otherwise receive.

  33. Who is this miracle worker? We are going and need help!

  34. Reliable travel arrangements and accommodations with highly valued perks are based on relationships with authentic service providers. Are you an airline's frequent flyer or returning guest with a particular hotel or its chain? The same is true with car rental companies. I was impressed when the general manager of a London hotel greeted me by name and mentioned minor details about my previous stay. Extra hotel services were always available to me probably because we liked each other, and I booked his hotel consistently. The relationship was mutually important because the hotelier took the time to understand my business and personal needs while I enjoyed the hotel's services and amenities. My corporate TA added nothing to this relationship. It was merely the hotel portion of the overall booking transaction. My British counterpart recommended the hotel because he too knew my personal and business needs.

    Does the concierge recognize you when you check into his hotel in Buenos Aires? For the business traveler, it is helpful to know those in the know who may offer the extra assist that makes your trip memorable. If a travel agent can do likewise as an intermediary, then it is worth investing in the TA/client relationship. I found that the larger travel companies with the sales volume and clout were capable of rendering these value added services. A relationship existed between the travel company and the travel service provider to benefit me, the business traveler

  35. I do agree that people need a touch of personal service which the web doesn't. I do run a travel agency (Polanka Travel) to Sri Lanka from UK and Europe. The travellers like our independent advice about airlines, hotels and tours. Sometimes too much information on web is misleading the customers. Also travellers write on the web that they know too well about destination based on their a single journey to that destination. We provide in-depth knowledge we gathered to our travellers to suit their personal taste and preferences. As travel agents need to know their products inside out.

    The web is time consuming, Travel agents can save your time once they know what you are looking for.

  36. Research shows that those who put more effort into planning their trips actually reap far more pleasure from the trip itself. My husband and I relish the hours of careful research we do for our multi-week vacations every year -- from the right hotels for our needs, to the perfect local meal and the best shopping district. The enjoyment would be highly diminished if someone else did the research and we just showed up with an itinerary in hand.

    My parents use travel agents for their exotic luxury trips every year. They always come back raving about what a great time they had. Then my husband and I inevitably visit the same place within a few years, and have, well, a much better and much more individual experience. My parents' trip includes staying at the luxury tourist hotel, doing a high end private tour where they are driven around to all the standard tourist sites, and meals at the standard tourist restaurants. When we go, we find a cuter local hotel at a better price, we know which tourist sites are worth avoiding and instead find the trendier parts of town for shopping and walking around, and know which tourist trap restaurants to avoid and which new hip restaurants to go to. Our trips always make my parents' sterile trip feel like a grown up version of Disneyworld. When we get home and tell my parents about our trip, they always seem a bit disappointed about everything they missed.

  37. I hope your parents aren't reading this! It sounds kinda bratty.

  38. In the midst of planning a pretty big vacation, I read this article. Could it be? I went to check out a travel office yesterday to see-
    Nah.
    Travel agents are still wonderful, well travelled and personable as ever (lovely, actually!) but online I can find better deals by far. The tours that the agents discussed were similar to what I've been looking at, but pricier, geared to those who need every step planned, every car waiting, every line avoided. These are amazing tours, for certain- with their own employees, all over the world- but not priced for the bottom 95%.

    It would have been fun to use the same packaged tour group as Princes William and Harry, but for less than 1/3 the price, I'll deal with the rough edges on a highly rated online discount group and do pretty much the same thing. I know I could be stranded in an airport somewhere, or shuttled to a different hotel, or have my baggage disappear but - for the savings involved, I'll take my chances.

  39. A couple of decades ago, I was in the airline, travel agency business, and can now see it from both sides, as a consumer as well as a provider of travel related services.

    And I'm convinced that travel agents as we used to know them (pre-internet era) have gone the way of the horse and carriage. Or the barker at state fairs.

    However, like other professions or service sectors that need niche, specialized knowledge, travel agents who have in-depth, extensive, reliable knowledge about specific destinations will still continue to find gainful employment.

  40. As a veteran agent with over 30 years in the industry, I feel that the article should be entitled "Young Travel Agents Rescuing an Endangered "Profession". If Ms. Higgins truly wanted to address the return of the travel agent, she should have included a cross section of travel agents. I am curious as to the reason Ms. Higgins made age the exclusive focus? Do older agents have no place in this trend? Ms. Higgins failed to address a very important question. Do these agents young agents have the depth of knowledge that veteran agents with decades of experience can offer? Part of travel "navigation" is the sharing of deep destination knowledge or else I assert that we are no better than our clients surfing on the web.

    Also as an aging baby boomer, I do speak the same "language" and understand the stage of life facing my generation right now. Not everyone needs the creation of sound track for their inflight distraction. (I posit that this clientele are more interested in the flat bed than a special sound track...) Not everyone, unless you struck gold, oil or stocks, can afford the $100,000.00 "country club" membership. However, there is still a sector of the traveling public who is seeking excellent travel advice and arrangements and is still willing to pay for such service at realistic prices.

  41. What I would love to see are travel agents who can help plan vacations for people with dietary issues or other disabilities. I have Celiac Disease and can't eat gluten. I really, really want to travel to Europe, but the planning is overwhelming given the dietary issues. There are tips on the web of course, but, again, it's overwhelming. I'd gladly pay a premium to have someone who could help me plan the trip.

  42. As an industry insider and observer, I would sum up the situation this way:

    Travel agents are not only back, but they have evolved, gradually, in the last 10 years. The ones who thrive today are specialized agents that add value with personalized service, true expert knowledge, and insider connections -- they have the ability to transform clients' trips to something much more special, and save clients time and hassle. And, at reasonable and fair prices.

    However, consumers often have not caught up with this evolution. For example, judging from several comments here, it's clear that many still think that there's no reason to use a travel agent because they can find a better deal online and they can research everything online themselves. And it's true -- those who are looking for deals should not use a travel agent. There are plenty of ways to search for deals online, quite efficiently. However, if you're planning a more complex trip, with multiple stops, and you want unique experiences that are tailored to your interests, and you want it all put together seamlessly without spending tens of hours, then there's no better solution than using a good, specialized travel agent for your particular trip.

    My recommendation: Use the right specialized travel agent for the right type of trip and have the right expectations -- then you'll have the best experience and reap the most value.

    Brian Tan
    Founder and CEO
    Zicasso.com - Handcrafted Travel

  43. My experience is that most travel agents today can only handle bookings for cruise ship excursions and resort packages. Ask for anything other than what is listed in the cruise or resort brochure and you receive blank stares or a response indicating that you are asking for some illegal service. I'm sure Katie Brower is a very talented and experienced travel professional, but very few travel agencies have her kind of expertise. Try asking your travel agent to book a rail trip from Paris to Barcelona and watch the panic in their eyes.

  44. My father was a travel agent and airline exec and I mourned the seeming demise of the traditional travel agent, from a sentimental standpoint. For the past decade at least I have been using online and published resources to compulsively plan our travel, and I agree with a previous poster, that part of the fun in indeed in the planning. I have planned a trip to China for my son and his friends and learned a lot in the process (my son went to China and all I got was....never mind).

    However, in recently booking a cruise, I have found the agent our friends recommended invaluable! We knew the ship we were going on offered no discounts for the cabin configuration we wanted, and being returnees to the cruising world after a very long time, we had a lot of questions. The agent has shown to be incredibly knowledgeable and responsive. I can see the value-added benefits of using an expert.

    For easy domestic travel I can have fun booking and finding deals online, but if I myself make the trip to China, or back to Europe, or anywhere with multiple destinations, I think I will take advantage of agent resources again. With the caveat that my airfare must be as cheap as possible (and I'll be looking to compare).

    Dad would have been happy to read this article.

  45. I have learned that by using a travel agent in Europe is more than worthwhile. I've recently fallen in love with Spain and Andalucia in particular. For the last three trips I've depended on the wonderful e-mail service provided by Nicola at Lemon Valley Holidays in Malaga. In addition to their listed excursions by car, by train, or by foot in Andalucia, they were also able to plan an independent itinerary including Salamanca, Madrid and Barcelona last year. My future itinerary is to Arcos de la Frontera, Ronda and Seville. The hotels they choose are some of the very best I've ever stayed in, their choice for Flamenco shows in both Seville and Madrid were spectacularly non-touristy, their restaurants suggestions always superb, and they booked all my rail tickets in advance. In addition, their "travel pack" awaiting you at your first hotel is filled with great advice and hints for out of the way places. Another comfort: they're in Spain in case you need anything. Just a local phone call away.

    Can't recommend them more highly.

  46. My sister owns a travel agency in argentina http://browserviajes.tur.ar/ and I believe that in South America travelers like to receive advice and a more customized experience while traveling.

    Even if I use services such as Kyak and airlines webpages to search for cheaper options I always end in a travel agency to choose my hotel and other service. The time you save and the comfort of knowing you can contact someone in case of emergency is priceless.

  47. On a recent group trip, my friends were surprised to learn that I had gotten a better deal from a travel agent then they had seen in their online research. It was especially surprising that I'd prefer a travel agent given my digital media background. Online sites use the same underlying engines, and spending a lot of time on them is a waste. By using a travel agent, I can spend my time planning what I'm going to do when I get there!

  48. I second the recommendation for Nicola and Lemon Valley. Our first trip to Andalucia was through them, by a happy accident. Nicola tailored it to our need to fly in and out of Seville instead of into Granada and out of Malaga because of flying out of Paris and the high cost that incurred.

    We are booking a second, longer trip with Nicola, and she is accommodating all the changes we want to make from the initial itinerary they show online.

  49. There are other ways to have a more intimate and memorable travel experience; one of them is to rent an apartment rather than stay in hotels. While DIY channels are available, not everyone wants to spend the time and take the risk of doing booking on their own. That's where agencies of another kind can be helpful.

    We started www.likelivingthere.com after a family trip to Spain and Italy. By concentrating on Barcelona and Paris, cities we have visited numerous times, we can offer advice on what part if the city to stay in and tips on how to save. This is perhaps not appealing to those seeking high thread-count baby cot sheets, but it can help a lot for those looking for a more authentic experience.

    For other trips, like a getaway to the Caribbean, we're likely to sit down with our local travel agent, who has access to packages we might never come across rather than spend hours researching them ourselves. There's a good chance she's been to the places she's recommending and we've had a long-term relationship of trust.

  50. As I'm reading through the comments I'm noticing a recurring misconception that you have to choose between working with a travel agent and participating in the research yourself. This may have been the old way but I think more common these days is an intensely collaborative relationship where we're passing links back and forth with the traveler throughout the planning process working together to hone in on the perfect trip and the best value within a given budget. It's like cooking dinner for your family with Rachel Ray as your Sous Chef.

    For the folks that said that Travel Agents only offered expensive luxury package trips, I'd suggest trying a different agent. You can find one in your area that specializes in the type of travel you are looking for at travelsense.org (a free service of the American Society of travel Agents) or check us out at moragatravel.com. I'd also suggest being upfront when contacting an agent. A good Travel Agent can and will work with any budget within reason and knowing what your budget is upfront allows us save everyone time and effort by selecting products that fit from the start. If you've done research online and found offers that provide a good place to start by all means share them with your agent. It gives us a great place to begin asking questions to see how we can take your trip to the next level.

  51. Since they are so few travel agents and since selling travel is time-consuming, it is only normal that the most professional and knowledgeable agents would cater only to big items products that promise the most profit. The cheap riff raff can surely use the internet on its own. A bit of research is required but, since their time is less precious than mine, let them figure this out. An online travel agency, like Vayama for example, can sell 200 tickets on Sunday without any human intervention besides customer service issues and fraud alerts, if any.

  52. I enjoy researching and planning my itineraries and have not used a travel agent for a long time. But I am beginning to see that a travel agent is handy to have when things go wrong: planes get cancelled, hotels lose reservations, etc. A good travel agent would be able to handle rearrangements when I'm in a place where access to the internet is not simple. And I'm now coming around to the idea that a rental agency can provide a level of assurance when renting a place, especially overseas.

    So for me, the way to go in the future might be to develop my itinerary after doing research and planning and using a travel agent to help me see what I may be missing and to be there to assist me with alternate plans. in the event things don't go according to schedule.

  53. The reversion back to travel agents has been evident for some time - at least in consumer behavior if not in employment numbers. For e.g., a report from Forrester's Henry Harteveldt a couple of years ago talked about how a quarter of *online* Americans hate the online experience and would like to book with travel agents instead, if they could find one.

    What I take issue with is the unspoken assumption in the article that such personalized attention is possible only for high-budget trips, and also that the only point of differentiation are the perks that travel agents can secure. I run a new kind of site (mygola.com) that lets anyone get an online personal travel planner for the price of a Lonely Planet guidebook. That means someone else sifts through the thousands of reviews, finds where you can rent a stroller in Zurich and makes recommendations to sublet an apartment instead of a hotel if that makes more sense. But more interestingly, this "guide" has access to time-sensitive data: deals, events and even tips left on foursquare - that is very hard to replicate in a guidebook or even travel agent format.

    My guess is that we'll see more of these hybrid structures going forward - the high touch and personalization that only a human can provide but to have that personal travel planner be powered by the richness of the web.

  54. I have been using the services of the same travel agent since 1980 and will continue, especially when it comes to encountering problems with flights, hotels, drivers, cruises, etc. To have the ability to call for help 24/7 if you run into snags or are not satisfied with accomadations or service, is a great relief. The few times I have booked highly recommended hotels online are the very times I called my agent with a "get me out of here" please even though she did not book the hotel. Same with cancelled flights -she has connections to airlines that the average traveler does not have and can book different flights quickly, even if I purchased my ticket online. For the acceptable charges for these services, you actually save money by having the flexibility to changing anything unsatisfactory during your travels.

  55. i always use a travel agent after researching prices and destinations. i find the agent more than willing to match any price i find on line, and when i arrive at a destination, there is a real person to contact if anything goes wrong. much less stress when travelng with young children--i wouldn't do it any other way!

  56. I haven't used a travel agent in over 20 years but I can see where it can help, particularly since one never knows how true the customer reviews on sites such as tripadvisor.com are.

    Slowly people are becoming used to the internet as a fact of life and thus things that were pushed to the side are beginning to return. I heard that today is Vinyl Record Day can a VCR tape revival be that far behind? Librarians, thought to be obsolete in the age of Google are still around because who else will advise students -- and adults -- how to navigate through millions of hits?

    And books? Printed books, that is? They will be back, too.

    So why not travel agents?

  57. For the first time in 25 years, I used a travel agent to book a family vacation in Hawaii.

    It involved travel, condo booking, a car, and the use of a fair amount of charge card miles. My sister said I'd get a better deal if I went through a travel agent.

    And she was right. I saved money, I didn't spend hours on the web and, unlike my travel agent, I couldn't call the resort we're going to and request a specific condo.

    Plus when we get there, if anything is awry, I call my agent. She and her company purchase a lot of packages. She has clout and leverage I don't have.

    For a quick trip to NYC, book it yourself. For a vacation with multiple stops and or details? From now on, I'm using my new travel agent.

  58. I guess travel agents are back for some who can afford it. But those people always have other people to do their work for them. What else is new?

  59. I remember a cruise to the South Pacific.
    After researching on line, I was fortunate to have a travel agent nearby.
    I mapped out some on-line details and shared them and the coordination of the two approaches was exptemely valuable.
    One cruise segment went from Sydney, AU around Tazmania, New Zealand Cook Isles and Tahiti. From there we were to fly back to Honolulu (we live in Kona).
    From the travel agent we found that the flight back to Honolulu was via Los Angeles and the cost was at least comparable to staying on the same ship on another segment ending up in Honolulu.
    Case closed. A fantastic voyage.
    Also I was able to offer the travel agent some insight into a hotel in Sydney for her future use.
    Also, the travel agent was instrumental in obtaining visas and reduced one-way flight fares to Sydney.
    Hooray for travel agencies.

  60. I used a travel agent for our trip to South Africa. I usually plan my own trips but with a trip this long (2 weeks) and a tad complex I really didn't feel comfortable planning it myself. Our travel agent was a dream and planned the best trip we could ever hope for. I think if I had done it myself it would have been nice, but not as seamless and definitely would have taken way more effort on my part.

  61. Ms. Higgins rightly points out some of the benefits of high-end, well-connected travel agents: free bonus perks, upgrades, breakfasts as well as expert counsel. She neglects to mention that many agencies like Blisscape.com charge absolutely nothing for such benefits --no planning fee--period. And they guarantee the best prices.

  62. I have always agreed that a travel agent is the best way to plan your vacation. I also agree that buying travel insurance is the way to go, especially with every ticket being non-refundable and the high change fees that are imposed by the airline. For roughly less then $100, you can protect your $1000+ ticket if you have to cancel. Travel agents have always found the best prices for air, cruises and hotels and work extra hard to get that best price. If you don't have a travel agent, go to www.compete4yourseat.com and put in your trip request. Not only will you get a geat price, you will build a new relationship with a travel agent.

  63. I live in NY but use a travel agent in Atlanta. I always stay in Four Seasons hotels in certain cities and other 5 star hotels in places that don't have Four Seasons. My agent has Preferred Partner status so I usually get room upgrades, always get free breakfast, and at Four Seasons she gets me an extra $100 food and beverage credits. I couldn't get those extras without Linda. For me booking high end hotels through a travel agent is a no brainer.

  64. The subtext here is relatively well-off travelers and knowing specific travel niches. I got turned off to travel agencies long ago. They couldn't answer what I thought were fairly pedestrian questions (e.g., were charters--it was the end of their era or regular flights a better deal to Ireland; the NY Times proved more helpful than any agent I contacted). IThe first time I traveled to Asia, I had an agency with deep (missionary) roots in the region try to steer me away from what I wanted ant substantially higher cost. At best, travel agents know a particular region (often they have family there) or segment like cruises. In those parameters they still may know things that are difficult to find online. OTOH, it's not difficult to find good guidebook infor for indie travel and to identify hotel or air bargains. Sometimes a package will surpass these, but there often are limitations.There always will be people who don't know/care to do research and people who travel impulsively. Travel agents will survive on them. For the rest us, it's a pleasure not to deal with them.

  65. What about the people who get bumped to accommodate the special bookings made in sold out hotels etc?

  66. I've learned there's a lot more involved in booking cruises to Europe and Asia, so I rely heavily on my agent for her vast knowledge of various ships and ports.

    EL

  67. I would say definitely yes, they are back. I had been booking online for years and one year ago or so I just couldn´t find a flight with adequate connections during a particularly busy moment of my life so I contacted an agent that a friend had recommended. Instead of hours she found the perfectly scheduled flight in ten minutes... and it was cheaper than what I was getting in the internet! Ever since I have been scheduling all my trips with them and EVERY time the result has been fast, suited to my needs and cheaper than online offers.
    I would especially recommend using an agent if your trip includes flying to several places with different time zones.
    I agree maybe if you are planning vacation you may enjoy doing all the research yourself. But for business... I am not going to back to the internet.

  68. I don't relish hours of being online researching a trip. Someone noted here that there are people who put more effort to scoring a deal online than into being on the actual trip. It's great to see the travel agent make a comeback (though I agree with the reader who commented about ageism in this article considering who NYTimes chose to profile). We used Liberty Travel for our 2008 Christmas trip to Brugges and had a great experience, which I blogged about at http://katrinawoznicki.com. We will probably use an agency again to coordinate our 2013 trip to Japan. For all the other trips, we looked online and relied on the experiences of well-traveled friends. But when it comes to having vacations meant to fulfill multiple purposes and include multiple stops, speaking to another human being with expertise does come in handy. Apps and Siri can only do so much.

  69. c4tzm30w: If you are traveling to Toronto, look for Pickle Barrel restaurants. Their menus have gluten free supplements which you can request. Whenever I travel there, it is my restaurant chain of choice.

  70. Sorry, my own recent experience belies your description of the glories of using travel agents. After recently reading another article claiming that agents have access to much better plane seating than the general public, and thinking about my own horrible experiences flying lately, I decided to try reconnecting with my local AAA. After all I have been paying them for years for no real service. Long story short, simple job: I asked for two air tickets to Paris and a week at a nice hotel. This I have done for myself before without problem but I thought it would be interesting to see what a pro could do.

    After a week of inaction she came back with flying dates 10 days earlier than I wanted and one hotel suggestion—according to the agent Paris is quickly booking this year. We took the air tickets and were told the hotel confirmation would come in 48 hours. A few days later (after hearing nothing) we called her and discovered the hotel was never confirmed. After much (apparent) scrambling on her part she came back with the "last room" in town AT A HOLIDAY INN. IN PARIS!!!

    A quick search of Expedia resulted in at least 141 choices. So we booked our own room.

    And for this “service” we paid $60.

  71. I have put off booking a beach resort vacation many times because the information available on the Internet is so overwhelming and, I fear, unreliable, since I've learned of paid "reviews." I only wish I could find well informed, reputable travel agent.

  72. Nothing to beat the personalized care you get from your travel agent - specially when things need to be changed at the last minute - or there is a problem with the flight / cancellation/ delay/ missed connection etc. I wouldn't trade my travel agent up for any travel web site. The rates are not that much different either.

  73. 43 years since I boarded my first plane, 80 countries and 33 years planning trips for great clients. I would say I am invaluable to my clients who realize that " you can always make more money but nor more time".