For those of you who don’t know, Wendy Perrin is the former Director of Consumer News and Digital Community at Condé Nast Traveler and is most famous among travel agents for her annual list of top travel specialists. Over the years there seemed to have been more small, specialized suppliers than travel agents. Wendy left Conde Naste this year to work with Trip Advisor and has also launched her own website and blog. One new feature is this “Trusted Travel Expert” list, which seems to be her new version of the the Top Travel Specialists list.
So, I’ve watched these posts of hers recently and groan a bit on the inside because – I know I’m not listed, and jeeze, who’s going to want to work with me on a trip to ____ when I’m not the ultimate expert? (I will not get on my soapbox and preach to you AGAIN about the need for specialization here. If you haven’t already niched down and chosen a specialty, DO IT! Go here for my thoughts on why, how etc. )
This post in particular hurt a bit more than the others, though, because IC Bellagio happens to be a company I have worked with in the past on very customized client trips to Italy. And it’s a bit of a knife to the heart to have them out there on Wendy Perrin’s site for every traveler to book directly with.
I got angry a for bit, and I pouted a bit, and then I started thinking. This is just how things are now, right? People can find what were once our secret weapons with a simple Google search or with a recommendation from a travel columnist. So, we can get bitter about it and whine about how unfair it is, or we can figure out how to make ourselves more relevant and more valuable.
So, here’s my question for today – Why would anyone use us to book their trip to Italy instead of just booking directly with the same tour companies we use? What can we add to the experience?
Off the top of my head – we KNOW them. If we build a long term relationship with our clients and learn their travel style – where they like to stay, how adventurous they are, what they like to do etc. then that’s all that information they don’t have to re-teach someone every time they book a trip. I’m sure you have clients that you’ve worked with for years who are just easy because you know what they want and don’t have to go back and for the 5 times a day to check details.
What are some other benefits to working with an agent? Please share your ideas in the comments.