Years ago, when you wanted to go on vacation, there was only one option. You had to hoof it down to your local travel agency and browse through some travel brochures. Then, when you made your selection, you’d sit across the desk from your travel agent (in a very uncomfortable chair) while they entered all the information on their green monochrome computer screen. Travel agents were the keepers of all travel information. Their life was the stuff of dreams. We imagined they had been everywhere and knew everything about world travel. They were the rock stars of the retail world.
Then, a few things happened. First, the airlines decided they didn’t need travel agents anymore and they pulled the plug on agent commissions. This didn’t work out so well for the airlines as evidenced by the number of them who went under in the aftermath. Many agencies refused to sell airline tickets without receiving a commission. Why should they work for free? So, things began to change from what had once been a very structured agency model governed by the ARC (Airlines Reporting Commission) into an industry that was evolving into something new.
Then, the second thing happened. The advent of the internet connection changed the face of travel forever. Information is readily available 24 hours a day about any aspect of travel you can imagine – from luxury yacht trips in the South Pacific to staying at a youth hostel in Europe. Whatever your budget or interest, the internet can open up a whole new world of options available to you for travel.
However, with the plethora of information now guides-info.org to consumers, is there still a need for the travel agent? Can’t consumers just figure this all out on their own now? I suppose they could try. But, why would they want to? Travel agents offer the benefit of their expertise in dealing day in and day out with travel suppliers. They still hold the “secret knowledge” of the travel business, just in a different way now. Plus, the services of a travel agent are usually free to consumers, as agents are paid commissions by suppliers.