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How Can I Find A Good Travel Agent? – Forbes

Carnival Corporations & PLC CEO Arnold Donald was the headliner at this year’s American Society of Travel Agents annual convention, held recently in San Diego. Last year, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson was the keynoter. The notable speakers reflect the increased usage of retail travel agents by consumers. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

</div> </div> <p>Zane Kerby, president &amp; CEO of ASTA, told delegates to its Annual Global Convention in San Diego, with consumers increasingly looking for agents to help them plan their trips, the industry needs to focus on ensuring high standards as its ranks swell with an influx of career switchers and Millennials who see selling travel as a way to make good money, see the world, improve quality of life while not having to sit in a cube for eight hours a day.</p> <p>Even suppliers are lining up to be front and center with agents. Last year, it was Arne Sorenson, the CEO of hotel goliath Marriott International. This time it was Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corp., the behemoth of the cruise industry with brands ranging from mass market Carnival Cruise Lines to ultra-luxury Seabourn. Donald told the standing room only audience his diverse lines depend on agents to play matchmaker putting the right customer on the right line, the right ship and right cabin at the right time.</p> <p> </p> <p>While big online travel agencies (OTAs) spend billions of dollars on marketing annually to entice consumers to book digitally, retail agencies tend to be small and medium size businesses with limited ad budgets, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/douggollan/2016/09/28/these-travel-agents-are-staying-a-step-ahead-of-google/#3ab1dedc2b95" target="_self">relying instead on referrals by satisfied customers</a>. Donald said consumers believe agents have their best interests at heart when making recommendations.</p>


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Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. Chairman Richard Fain congratulates Rick Mazza on his ASTA Lifetime Achievement Award for advocating the retail trade. The testimonials from a who’s who of travel suppliers reflect the newfound vitality of the retail travel agency business.

</div> </div> <p>Kerby says the decision for ASTA to switch gears from defense to offense came naturally. “We’ve done a lot of work to try and help consumers understand that the travel agency community is still out there and a service to those people who want to travel,” he said.</p> <p>Awhile back he was looking through comments consumers leave at its <a href="http://web.asta.org/imis/travelsense/simplesearch" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">TravelSense.org</a> website. One post that caught his eye was a consumer named Logan who came to the site planning his honeymoon. “(Logan) didn’t wake up in the morning and think, I’m going to plan everything, and I’m going to plan everything from Google. He thought to himself, ‘I need help.’ He thought instinctively there must be somebody to help me, and from that he found our site.”</p> <p>Kerby says TravelSense enables consumers to search for agents by expertise, be it geography or trip type as well as location, so even while many agents handle customers on the other side of the country, you can still find somebody local. Consumers can rate agents and leave comments about agents, and after putting a focus on its site less than two years ago, he said traffic has soared to 80,000 visitors per month. About 3,500 of ASTA’s 10,000 members have profiles on the site enabling consumers to contact them.</p> <p>A turnaround in media coverage has helped with more and more positive coverage on the benefits of using travel agents. Kerby said, in the case of Logan, he was driven to ASTA’s website by an article that advised, “Use an ASTA agent.”</p>” readability=”42″>

After nearly a decade of decline and then six years of flat growth, a funny thing happened in 2015. The number of travel agents as recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau jumped nearly 20% to 118,974, the most recent government statistics. Multiple reports suggest the population of agents has increased even more since that point. For the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), a trade group that like its members once had a doubtful future, the change has meant switching gears and being able to look into the future a bit instead of hunkering down in a survival mode.

Carnival Corporations & PLC CEO Arnold Donald was the headliner at this year’s American Society of Travel Agents annual convention, held recently in San Diego. Last year, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson was the keynoter. The notable speakers reflect the increased usage of retail travel agents by consumers. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Zane Kerby, president & CEO of ASTA, told delegates to its Annual Global Convention in San Diego, with consumers increasingly looking for agents to help them plan their trips, the industry needs to focus on ensuring high standards as its ranks swell with an influx of career switchers and Millennials who see selling travel as a way to make good money, see the world, improve quality of life while not having to sit in a cube for eight hours a day.

Even suppliers are lining up to be front and center with agents. Last year, it was Arne Sorenson, the CEO of hotel goliath Marriott International. This time it was Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corp., the behemoth of the cruise industry with brands ranging from mass market Carnival Cruise Lines to ultra-luxury Seabourn. Donald told the standing room only audience his diverse lines depend on agents to play matchmaker putting the right customer on the right line, the right ship and right cabin at the right time.

While big online travel agencies (OTAs) spend billions of dollars on marketing annually to entice consumers to book digitally, retail agencies tend to be small and medium size businesses with limited ad budgets, relying instead on referrals by satisfied customers. Donald said consumers believe agents have their best interests at heart when making recommendations.


Screenshot

Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. Chairman Richard Fain congratulates Rick Mazza on his ASTA Lifetime Achievement Award for advocating the retail trade. The testimonials from a who’s who of travel suppliers reflect the newfound vitality of the retail travel agency business.

Kerby says the decision for ASTA to switch gears from defense to offense came naturally. “We’ve done a lot of work to try and help consumers understand that the travel agency community is still out there and a service to those people who want to travel,” he said.

Awhile back he was looking through comments consumers leave at its TravelSense.org website. One post that caught his eye was a consumer named Logan who came to the site planning his honeymoon. “(Logan) didn’t wake up in the morning and think, I’m going to plan everything, and I’m going to plan everything from Google. He thought to himself, ‘I need help.’ He thought instinctively there must be somebody to help me, and from that he found our site.”

Kerby says TravelSense enables consumers to search for agents by expertise, be it geography or trip type as well as location, so even while many agents handle customers on the other side of the country, you can still find somebody local. Consumers can rate agents and leave comments about agents, and after putting a focus on its site less than two years ago, he said traffic has soared to 80,000 visitors per month. About 3,500 of ASTA’s 10,000 members have profiles on the site enabling consumers to contact them.

A turnaround in media coverage has helped with more and more positive coverage on the benefits of using travel agents. Kerby said, in the case of Logan, he was driven to ASTA’s website by an article that advised, “Use an ASTA agent.”

How Can I Find A Good Travel Agent? – Forbes

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