Travel Agent Selection Criteria: Be Careful Who You Work With

If you’re planning a vacation and you’re going to request assistance, you need to carefully consider your travel agent selection criteria and choose the agency wisely. If you select the wrong travel agent, your dream trip can quickly unravel before your eyes.

Below are the top travel agent selection tips I suggest to all vacation shoppers. 

Work With a Professional Travel Agency

I have been a travel agent for over three decades and I have had my own business for more than ten years. The longer I am in the business, the more changes I have seen and the more unqualified people I see who purport to be travel agents.

There are many people who call themselves travel agents and ask for your business. They just decide overnight that it would be nice to be a travel agent and the next day they are selling travel. They have no experience and many of them have never traveled any further than the state they live in let alone the seven continents. Much of their motivation is to try to travel themselves at a reduced rate. There are also many on-line tour operators that are nothing more than pyramid operations that try to get people working under them to sell travel.

I recently saw a sign in an office window advertising ‘Taxes’, ‘Travel’ and ‘Tailoring’. I perhaps would consider using their tailoring services for a simple task although I would prefer a more experienced and dedicated seamstress. I wouldn’t use a part-time tax preparer considering the money involved and the penalties that could be incurred. And I certainly would not use a part-time travel agent, entrusting them with my money and my valuable vacation experience.

Experience is Important

Travel is complicated and it is best to put it in the hands of travel agents who have experience, have traveled and keep up with all of the latest trends and destinations. It is best to work with agents who specialize in areas you are interested in and have been in the business for a long time. They can answer all of the questions that you have and know what travel documents are needed for the areas you are traveling to. They know how to check to see if there are travel advisories. They also travel to the areas you are looking at and can advise on any safety issues and even if there are areas to stay away from.

It is important to know the travel documents needed. I have seen people turned away at an airline counter because they have an expired passport, a passport card instead of a book or a passport that expires in less than six months. Imagine being ready to travel to the honeymoon of your dreams and being turned away. Many have missed days from them special trip or even had to ultimately cancel.

Is the Agency Stable?

It is also best to work with someone who has a solid business and has been in the business for a a long time. There are many who simply decide overnight to start their own business and have no financial backing. They have no idea what it is to run a business and all of the taxes and certifications involved. These agents are handling your money and your vacation. Everything may be ok but there are many businesses that here today and gone tomorrow. In my opinion, it should be a little harder for someone to just decide overnight to go into business. There should be stricter rules. I have heard of travel agents going into business and not even having a bond. I guess every business has to start somewhere but know who you are working with. If you are working with a new business, be sure you pay with a credit card so that at least you have something to fall back on should something happen to the business you are dealing with.

Certifications Show Commitment

It also best to work with agents who have designations such as CTC (Certified Travel Consultant). This is the big one, it takes five years of graduate level courses to obtain this designation. DS (Destination Specialist) are courses on destinations so that the agent can properly recommend a destination. It goes deeper than resorts, it is history, climate, currency and cultures. There are resort designations such as CRC for Sandals; AMR for AMR Resorts, and many others. MCC (Master Cruise Counselor) is a course given by Cruise Line International Association. It goes deeply into each cruise line, their product, safety and cleanliness. These are just some of the many designations an agent may have.

Select an Agent That Actually Travels

Many agents pride themselves in keeping up with things and going to the resorts they recommend. That is extremely important, especially for a trip as special as a honeymoon or a destination wedding. As I have said many times, a picture on the internet does not always tell the true story. Also, you cannot depend 100% on online reviews. Many reviews are fictitious and you are never sure who has written them. It is best to work with someone who has been there and who has earned specialist ratings with various resort chains. It makes all the difference in the world when someone has walked the property, been in the rooms, experienced the facilities, dined on the property and experienced the activities.

Passion, Compassion, and Empathy Define the Experience

It is also great to work with someone that has passion for what they do and simply loves to travel and to help their clients have a dream come true. It is wonderful when someone is excited for you about your special trip and can relay that through a phone call. It is nice to have someone who understands what you are looking for and listens to you. It is nice to have an agent who does not just try to recommend what they want to sell but listens to what you are looking for and is able to find the perfect destination and resort for you.

This may be your honeymoon or destination wedding which is something that you only do once. It may not be the most lavish and expensive trip you ever take but it will certainly be one of the most special. The planning that goes into this with you and your agent should be a wonderful experience. Planning and dreaming about this special trip is half the fun!

Whatever agency you choose, wherever you go, whoever helps you – be sure your travel agent selection criteria and ultimate decision match you and your needs!