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5 reasons you still need your trusted travel agent

In a world where practically everything is accessible with a few clicks of a mouse – including flights, hotels and all sorts of good travel deals – what’s the point of using a travel agent when you can do it yourself?

The answer is quite simple: if your travel agent is a true professional, he or she will be offering value that the internet simply cannot compete with. 

Mandy Jordaan has been in the travel business for 25 years. She’s risen through the ranks from receptionist to her current position of Commercial and Business Solutions Manager for Sure Travel, the largest independent travel agency group in Southern Africa. The travel business has changed radically during Jordaan’s time, but one thing hasn’t: travellers still need professional travel agents. She explains five ways a good travel agent always trumps the World Wide Web:

1. Incomparable value

Here’s where the difference between an accredited travel agent and the many self-appointed “travel agents” out there comes in: unaccredited travel agents are not qualified to do more than surf the web – exactly like you can. Whereas a professional travel agent has the necessary qualifications and experience to offer you a professional end-to-end service. 

This goes beyond merely booking tickets. In addition to sourcing the best deals for your specific needs and offering expert up-to-date advice, a professional travel agent takes service to a new level and makes the client an instant VIP. Over the years I have arranged free room upgrades, (almost) impossible to get restaurant reservations, access to otherwise closed stores and exhibits, private guides and cheaper premium airfares for my clients, to mention just a few. 

Travel agents take the guess work out of planning a trip — they can book your accommodation, flights and activities in one fell swoop. Stock image.

2. Best deals

You may think you’re getting a better deal on the internet, but nine times out of 10 a travel agency will be able to offer the better overall deal – even with the travel agent’s service fee included. 

This is because over the past 15-plus years travel agencies have grouped into larger consortiums, which gives them considerable buying power. Sure Travel, for example, has close to 80 travel agencies in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, therefore the group purchases millions of rands from travel suppliers each month. This buying power enables travel agency groups to negotiate the best deals on everything from flights to hotels, transfers, tours and more. Our negotiations may also include extras such as free hotel transfers, room upgrades and meal inclusions, to name but a few. So when you compare the online prices versus packages from travel agencies, always be sure to compare apples with apples: that “super cheap” deal online may not be so cheap when you factor in all the extras that are included in our packages.

Online deals can come with hidden extras you might not realise before booking. Travel agents can help you navigate the tricky Terms + Conditions of most travel offers. Stock photo.

Our strong personal relationships with travel suppliers also provides benefits that the internet can’t give you. For example, if we call our local hotel group rep to say you’re celebrating a special wedding anniversary at one of their hotels, it’s likely you are going to get the red carpet treatment on arrival. Interpersonal relationships are still very important, even in this highly digitalised world. 

3. After-hours service 

Something going horribly wrong on a trip is everyone’s worst nightmare – worse yet is having no one to call if it happens after hours. If you booked online, chances are you won’t have any luck getting hold of anyone, and Mandarin-speaking chatbots aren’t very helpful when you’re stuck in the middle of Saigon with no luggage! 

Over the years I have had calls at all hours of day and night from clients stuck in sticky situations, and fortunately I’ve had the know-how and contacts to bail them out every time. I’m not alone: 24/7 service for emergencies is part of the standard service offering of most professional travel agencies nowadays. 

Thank goodness for 24/7 service! Travel agents can help you out of an emergency — even if it's 3am. Stock photo.

4. Personal care

Travel professionals are trained to ask clients questions to ascertain what their specific needs are. This is crucially important so that the once-in-a-lifetime holiday you have been saving for does not end up a disappointment. From which destination to choose, to where to stay and what to do, a good travel agent should be able to guide you through every step. 

The great thing about working with a single travel agent year after year is that he or she will get to know all of your and your family’s niggles and needs. A travel professional stores this information, so you don’t need to tell them to book a special meal for your next flight – he/she’ll already know. Your personal travel agent will also know that your husband is 6.7 and needs extra legroom, so the emergency row will be booked in advance, and she’ll know you have a pre-existing illness that requires special travel insurance. It’s this attention to the small details that can make a major difference to not only your comfort levels, but your safety too.

Don't leave your travel plans to chance — the professionals at Sure Travel offer value, professionalism and affordable personalisation. Stock photo.

5. Duty of Care 

This is a term used in corporate circles to describe a company’s duty to ensure the safety of its employees when they travel for business. We believe that this isn’t limited to corporate travel: a professional travel agent also has a duty to make every reasonable effort to ensure leisure travellers’ safety. This includes everything from advising clients if there are any travel warnings for an area they are planning to travel, to assisting clients to obtain sufficient travel insurance (and no, the free travel insurance you get on credit cards is usually not sufficient!). Should there be a medical emergency, a natural disaster or a terror attack, a professional travel agent should know where their clients are at the press of a button and be able to offer assistance. 

These are only five of the many ways a travel professional can make travel easier, cheaper, safer and more efficient for you. Because that’s ultimately what a good travel agent is there to do; take the hassle out of travel and give you peace of mind. 

Professional travel agents are trained in Duty of Care

Bonus tip

Travel agents who are members of the Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA) abide by a set of professional, ethical and regulatory standards. It is therefore always advisable to use the services of an ASATA-accredited travel agency. All Sure Travel agencies are ASATA members. For more ASATA members, visit www.asata.co.za.


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