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Using a travel agent vs. booking yourself: what’s best?

29 Sep 2022 5 MIN READ

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Using a travel agent vs. booking yourself: what’s best?

A few decades ago, if people wanted to book a trip, they’d wander down to their local travel agent’s office. After brainstorming some ideas and perhaps having a look through the travel agent’s catalogs, the travelers would express their preferences to the agent, who’d organize hotel and transport bookings for them.

Today, travelers are more likely to start their trip planning process by researching destinations online, and then head to an online travel aggregator to make the bookings themselves. A recent survey has shown that 41% of travelers now prefer using online travel agencies or aggregators to book hotels, with a further 29% booking direct, and just 29% using a traditional travel agent.

However, using a travel agent still has some unique benefits. Travel agents can find you exclusive fares, offer specialist expertise, and help you plan and coordinate your trip. Even today, many people seek them out for a more personalized travel experience.

So which option is really better: using a travel agent, or booking your own trip? Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of each booking method.

Pros of using a travel agent

Travel agents may also be called “travel advisors”, “travel experts”, or “travel consultants.” Travel professionals’ role has changed—while in the past, they may have been the key providers for any sort of travel booking, they now differentiate themselves by offering a curated, hands-on, and personalized service.

A good travel agent can:

  • Connect you with trusted tour operators they’ve worked with before
  • Find the perfect airfares, rental cars, and cruise ships/cruise lines to fit your itinerary
  • Help you save money with exclusive upgrades, discounts, and perks that aren’t available to the general public
  • Offer personalized service and peace of mind
  • Help you organize a group trip or family trip that meets all travelers’ requirements, saving you time and effort
  • Manage trip cancellations and changes, and find flexible fares that fall within your budget

Cons of using a travel agent

Using a travel agent has many perks, but there’s a reason so many people are switching to self-booking—there are some things a travel agent just can’t provide. Here are some of the cons you’ll find with travel agencies:

  • Less convenient - Many travel agents only offer services during certain limited office hours. On the other hand, by booking online, you can make your bookings any time you want. Some travel booking sites also offer 24/7 customer support.
  • Biased advice - Travel agents earn commissions from hotel operators and airlines, so they have an incentive to push you towards booking flights or hotels that they choose.
  • Limited choice - Many travel agencies, especially small consumer-facing agencies, have limited inventories. Online, you’ll find a wide variety of different travel products and tour operators to choose from. 
  • More expensive - Travel agencies often charge large booking fees for their services.
  • Lack of flexible payment options - Some types of travel agencies, such as business travel management companies, ask all their clients to sign a rigid one-year contract with complicated fine print. 

Travel management platforms: the best of both worlds

Clearly, there are many perks to using a travel agent, but there are also some seriously convincing arguments for self-booking on a consumer travel site (like Booking.com, Expedia, or Airbnb). So which option should you choose?

The answer depends on your main travel needs and goals. Some people prefer to have more control over their travel plans, while others prefer to have a trusted partner take over the work.  But did you know there’s a way to get the best of both worlds?

Travel management platforms are designed for frequent travelers who’ve “outgrown” the DIY tools on consumer travel websites, but still want a modern, convenient solution. Many of these platforms are geared towards business travelers and travel managers at companies.

If you’re a travel manager, you’re probably familiar with all the challenges of booking business travel: managing expense reports, arranging VAT refunds, trying to meet your corporate sustainability goals… all while staying within budget.

Your travelers might love the convenience of consumer booking sites, but relying on these sites can cause a lot of confusion. You’ll have to manage everyone’s bookings individually, and there’s no way to make sure everyone books within company policy.

On the other hand, travel agencies understand your needs, and can offer a personal touch. But they often use out-of-date technology, have limited fare options, and don’t offer 24/7 support.

With a travel management platform like TravelPerk, you’ll get the autonomy and fare options you’d find on a consumer site, combined with the personalized service and money-saving deals that a travel agency would provide—all in one place.

Travelers will have access to the world’s largest travel booking inventory, and can make all their bookings themselves. They’ll only be able to book within policy, so there’s no need to worry about enforcement. Your company will have access to exclusive deals and discounts, and travelers can access our seven-star customer support at any time, getting a response within 15 seconds.   

To learn more about TravelPerk, contact us to see our platform in action today.

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