Being a travel agent is a difficult task, at least, being a good travel agent is.
An agent is supposed to keep abreast of the latest trends, every hotel and air carrier on the planet, foreign exchange trends, weather forecasting, potential security issues around the globe, immigration requirements for each end every country and be up-to-date and cheery with the delivery of this knowledge; and always at the lowest price.
Years ago, well, fifteen or so anyway, travel agents, like practitioners of almost every art, needed to know more than their clients about any single transaction. This was not really too difficult, and their role as the gatekeepers between clients and the principals in the business was well established. And then a funny thing happened; more and more information became accessible to the individual and the role of the intermediary became almost obsolete in many fields.
It is true, of course, that unless value is added to a transaction, there is little or no point in paying for the professional services; an accountant who continuously said “That’s a good idea” to each of your suggestions would not last long in that role.
And a funny thing happened in the travel business; the good agents got better, and the poor ones disappeared. Simple, and good for everyone, one would think, but why do so many travellers cringe at the concept of an intermediary when planning their travel?
I shall give you an illustration. Years ago, the most common question that we received was “What is the cheapest ticket to London?” Our answer was always, “Where in London do you want to go?”, and the responses were interesting. Apart from being able to sort passengers onto Heathrow and Gatwick flights according to their answer, a remarkable proportion, nearly 50%, were in fact going to Hull, Cardiff or another variety of UK destinations. Aware that London was a hub for cheap flights, and unaware of the time-geography of the island, they assumed that getting to London inexpensively was sufficient.
As it happens, one can fly to a variety of UK regional airports including Humberside (for Hull) and Cardiff for only a small additional cost, and many were delighted and flew to their destination happily and with considerably less expense and frustration. Now, however, the question is the same, and the answer from the Binary Net will always be the most economical fare (or quite often, but that is a different matter), and thus completely unaware that their journey could be fare easier they revel in the fact that they “beat the street” and found the lowest fare to a destination to which they really didn’t want to fly.
The web is, of course, a fine tool, but it is not more a tool than the phone system. It is also worth considering that when businesses spend millions developing their websites, it is to maximise their revenue, and not to minimise your expense; and those are completely different questions and requirements.
The web is where much information is housed; little knowledge is there and the key to successful web-use is knowing the correct questions ask. It is a pasteurising environment, with fewer companies, operating under a variety of disguises, selling fewer products.
It is an addictive environment, and a tantalising one where one knows’ that alternatives exist, but tracking them down and using them as building blocks for your vacation or business trip can be difficult.
And, of course, you won’t miss what you never knew existed.