In recent years, it may have seemed that the demise of the travel agent was imminent, with the arrival of easy online travel tools. However, travel agencies are thriving, and are experiencing a rebound, despite modern day technological advancements.
Like the cool clique in high school, travel agents have that extra something. They know more about the business of travel than anyone, are better connected, have access to benefits that you couldn’t get on your own, get better prices and provide a safety net if things go wrong on your trip.
While those planning simple trips may be fine letting their fingers do the walking, those on a grander budget or with specialized travel plans would be wise to use a specialist. Multi-stop trips, cultural tours and unfamiliar destinations should involve a professional. The benefits also increase exponentially, the more luxurious the trip becomes.
Denise Birmingham of Travel Pros Cayman says many of her clients ask where the best place to go or stay is, the best things to do, the best places to eat etc. “In almost every case, the answer is that there is no ‘best’ place – but there is the best for you,” she says. “That is why a relationship with a travel consultant who asks a lot of questions – the good ones will – is all important.”
Their firsthand experience also benefits the client. “They have been checking these hotels in person, eating at these restaurants, and using these guides for years, so they know the best ones for every need,” explains Birmingham. “All of these skills come together into a vacation you simply could not plan on your own.”
The best travel agents are essentially consultants, and many prefer the term “travel advisor,” because it is their advice, expertise, and connections that are of great value, not the ability to print airline tickets for you.
Popular travel segments
Cruises are one such trip which would benefit from a travel agent. The variation of choices, including destination, cruise line, ship type and demographics on board is astounding. In Cayman, we are familiar with mainstream sea cruises, but over the last decade, river cruising has become the hottest segment of the travel industry.
Gone are the days when only privately owned ships navigated a few choice rivers. River cruising popularity has grown dramatically, and more than 500,000 people now take a river cruise each year, enjoying smooth sailing and immediate access to the historical ports they dock in.
Destinations range from the United States to Europe, Russia, Egypt and even China and Southeast Asia, and many ships are recently built and designed for comfortable travel, with top of the line amenities.
Many travelers are discovering that river cruising provides an intimate, comfortable alternative to sea cruises, with typically just under 200 guests on board. Also, unlike an ocean cruise, there’s an ever-changing mural of breathtaking scenery from your ship, so the journey itself becomes part of your discovery.