Do it yourself or hire a professional?

For sale by owner or use a realtor? Manage your own stock portfolio or hire a broker? Cook yourself a gourmet meal or go out to dinner? Plan your own vacation or hire a travel agent. These are all things you can do yourself, but is it worth it?

As Director of Sales for Apple Vacations, I find value in travel agents because they qualify our customers. Their service and expertise helps customize the perfect Apple Vacation resulting in happy customers and repeat clientele. For us, its a service worth paying for and including in the price of our packages. Yes, I’ll admit, there are bad travel agents, but there are also bad restaurants, movies and sushi too!

In November, I will travel to 12 cities and speak to roughly 3,000 travel agents. I want to teach Travel Agents what you the consumer truly want from them. Please tell me, what would motivate you to use a travel agent on your next vacation? And then I’ll pass it along.

13 thoughts on “Do it yourself or hire a professional?

  1. We did travel with Apple Vacations to Riviera Maya 2 times. We enjoyed every minute of it. So did our friends. First time we got the tickets through a travel agent, but second time we found our self a better deal online. So, what makes me go with a travel agent is to find the best deal, the best place for us, and that requires listening to what we want and when we want it. This year we had to spend hours online to find the right place…, because what the travel agent was sending us was unsatisfactory. And yes, we found the best deal out there. But I would like to believe that a professional travel agent would know better…

  2. I would use a travel agent if they could provide back up. I would want to see print outs from website like tripadvisor so I could confirm they picked the best hotel. I would also want to see back up that they got me the beat rate. Hope that helps!!

  3. What would motivate me to use a travel agent on my next vacation?

    One big reason for using the internet to plan a vacation, as opposed to a travel agent, is that most vacations are with someone else, in my case my wife and kids. My wife and I don’t have the time to research trips together during the day, so we do it at night when I am home from work and the kids are in bed. It is not easy to reach a local travel agent at that time of night, so the internet just makes planning easier. Also, researching together just seems to make the trip feel more real, and makes us look forward to the trip more.

    Also, just knowing the resources that are available on the internet, I am going to research any information that a travel agent gives me anyways. I will search for reviews, compare prices, etc… At some point it is hard not to think that I am doing the leg work anyways.

    So…to motivate me to use a travel agent rather than book on my own, I am going to need a few things:

    1. Travel agent that is readily accessible by email that so that I can email what it is I am looking for and ask for suggestions; and

    2. A travel agent that replies with quality interactive deliverables, such as listing of options, a summary of reviews on the options (both from their and their clients perspective as well as those posted on line from recent quests), and relevant links to additional information and other options.

    This way my wife and I can review the information together when we have time, feel like we are part of the process, and feel comfortable that everything has been looked into.

  4. Personalized service. A friendly, efficient handling of all aspects of the trip. I especially appreciate someone who has been to the location and can recommend good hotels, restaurants, places to go and places to avoid. If it’s just someone who is going through the motions and processing paper work then I guess I do not need them.

  5. Why should I (as the customer) use an agent when I can just do it myself?

    Here is why:
    * agents will do all the grunt work so the customer can go on managing their day to day activities.
    * Agents have the knowledge of when/where to book.
    * Also, trust is a big issue these days. I think that consumers always feel they are going to get screwed unless they do it themselves. Sell them on the trust…and you will win them over.

  6. Top 3 things that I would look for if and when making reservations with a travel agent:

    1. Competitive prices/cheaper rates: I’m sure anyone would prefer to book a vacation, trip with a cheaper rate, even if they had to do it themselves.

    2. An agent, or service that I can easily access, perhaps an interactive live chat w/ an agent/representative from Apple vacations via your website. Just like Tim says above, many of us work during the day, have back-to-back meetings, etc., and the only down time most of us have are in the evenings. I also would like to be able to just provide my travel dates and have “my agent” do all the legwork: provide me with prices, reviews of hotels, details w/ my itinerary, etc.

    3. Expert Agent: I would like an agent who has stayed/traveled/flown with the list of options he/she provides (i.e. hotel, airline, resort, etc.)

  7. I would be motivated to use a travel agent over other online options b/c I’ve heard WAY too many stories about reservations getting LOST IN TRANSLATION when booking online, etc. I think when you actually connect with a human being on the other end of a telephone call, it is a lot more reliable. HOWEVER, I feel, that in order to be effective (and not annoying to consumers), agents should be available, should minimize hold times on the telephone and not have a ton of telephone menu options to get to a live person, they should not necessarily adhere to scripted calls-(be personable, but not robotic), and very knowledgeable about the destinations and travel routes.

  8. WOW Kevin – I find it quite interesting that, although your question did not infer the use of a travel agent vs. the internet scenario – several of the posts assume you meant booking online vs talking to a live travel agent. If you look at the deepest root of it, the internet is nothing without someone (let’s call that someone a travel agent for arguments sake) inputting the data and functionality they want you to use. So, I challenge your readers to steer away from the “agent vs internet” argument because both can and are in a sense “travel agents”.
    So, what’s my motivation no matter what the medium? UNBIASED choices from a Subject Matter Expert who can deliver value for my vacation dollars because they understand the total landscape.

  9. Later hours. I’ve never thought about or planned a trip before 8pm. Most families that I know don’t have time to do any “fun” stuff until the kids are asleep or at least in bed. I know that you can do a lot online but if you’re trying to get people to use the traditional travel agent, have someone manning the phones until 9 or 10 pm.

  10. Value through service or savings(ie group rates and/or itinerary based planning. Since we generally have not utilized an agent, I’m not sure that an agent is getting better rates than I would on my own on core travel components. But these days my family, tends to be swayed into organizing activities in a fractured way, based on combinations of rewards from different vendors we use (ie credit card points for miles, destination admission charges), so we’re always seeing where the overall savings are to start.I think of Travel Agents when we think of prepackaged itineraries and/or group services and rates. If an agent is marketing these types of value adds, then we’re more willing to consider that option. Then the question is “how do they get our attention”.

  11. Kevin, in response to your post and to Mike Farrell’s post:

    Booking a vacation on the internet is not the same as booking a vacation with an experienced, insured & licensed travel agent or in our case, vacation specialists.

    Sure, we all provide pricing and information. But we (travel agents) build relationships with our clients that are long lasting. Our recommendations are unbias. Our clients trust our experience and suggestions. The internet cannot be trusted for the most part.

    We can meet with our clients in person or talk to them on the phone day & night. My agents all have cell phones for evening appointments from their home office. The internet cannot make this claim.

    As far as rates go, the internet does not offer lower rates. In fact, no matter the distribution channel, we all have access to the same rates. An experienced travel agent knows how to find them. Travel Agents have the ability to price match should the need arise. More importantly, we are not a website or a click, we are a voice that our clients come to know. We are a person they come to trust.

    Buy local. Support your local businesses. In most cases, the internet company you are booking with is NOT local. We support our LOCAL charities. We patronize our local businesses. We build relationships.

    I hear many folks complaining that the big corporate companies are chasing all of the local mom & pop stores out of business. Here is a good reason to support your local travel or vacation store.

    Don’t get me wrong. The internet is a great tool for information as are travel agents but who can you call when something goes wrong ? A local travel agent. Not the 1-800’s or internet. You call your personal agent.

  12. I would utilize a travel agent who would cut through the plethora of information and opinions that exists via the internet. Having someone personally assess what I am looking to get out of a particular trip and then utilize their knowledge and experience to plan that trip for me would motivate me to use a travel agent. At the same time, I am only willing to pay a certain amount more for this service, due to the fact that so many free mediums exist today. Good luck!

  13. I would chose a travel agent over self booking if I knew it would cost me less. I prefer to buy my own food and cook it myself versus ordering out. I get more food for less money. For my travel plans, I feel the same way. I can call up hotels, airlines, car rentals myself thereby cutting out the middle man and their fee.

    Now, what I fear I miss in doing this are the packages that are given only to travel agents. As an actor, there are jobs (typically the BEST jobs) that are shown to talent agents only. I can imagine that to be the case with hotel and airline packages. So I would need to know that what an agent is offering me is THE greatest value for my dollar and enjoyment.

    I also want to support some comments above. Later times available is a must. Assurance that this agent understands the “total landscape”. An agent that is very present in my community.

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