Friday, October 26, 2012

Travel Agents Could Become Obsolete - Business Insider

Airlines are testing out a new ticket initiative to compete with websites, which could go in effect by 2016.?

The plan, in which airlines solicit info to create a personalized ticket with bundled in items like bag-check and meals, could signal the demise of travel agents as well.

According to The Flight Deal, a blog that tracks fares, "travel agents now depend on selling airfare as a means of upselling additional products like hotels where commissions still exist."

But these days, "consumers do not need travel agents for the traditional tonnage business of booking simple itineraries as airline websites and online travel agencies have filled that need."?

With the advent of personalized tickets, consumers might not see a need for agents at all.?

"Their business will suffer greatly," predicts Flight Deal, "unless they can move up the value chain. They need to be true value adds like the Virtuoso agent network, which provides booking for high-end, customized experiences where the agent's knowledge trumps the technology."

However, they shouldn't write off these bricks-and-mortar agents just yet as they're still useful for booking certain kinds of trips. As U.S. News' Daniel Bortz has?pointed out, travel agents come equipped with a deep Rolodex of sales associates and bookers, first-hand experience from their own personal travels, and knowledge of an area or service that can be tougher to find online if it's relatively niche or in a small country.?

"You'll pay a fee to have a travel agent do something," says Brett Snyder, an expert who blogs at The Cranky Flier, but "they generally focus on tours, land packages and things where they can actually make a living."

However, if these services fall by the wayside, consumers risk losing out on one of the best ways to find cheap fares to certain countries, learn about its culture from people who may have lived there and possibly receive better service than they'd get from an online booking agent. As The New York Times' Seth Kugel found out, travel agents beat sites on all counts.?

Now check out how a personal finance editor books a cheap trip to Ireland >?


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