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Travel agents alive, well and saving big money

I’ve been saying this for years: “Travel agents are not dead.

The Internet has only changed the way the travel products are sold. People will still need professional travel agents help on their trips”.

Now the most recent consumer research on travel seems to support my statement. Research firm Partnership/Yankelovich reports that 62 percent of consumers who used a travel agent said their agent was “Extremely Influential” or “Very Influential” in their choice of vacation products.

This is up from 56 percent in 2008 and 54 percent in 2007. That’s a research fact in an annual study known as the National Leisure Travel Monitor. And this is no fluke — the study has been going on for decades and three years of research show a steady growth in the influence of agents.

The YPartnership/Yankelovich Travel Monitor is an annual study that tracks trends in the travel industry based on the actual traveling customer. It measures consumer behavior year in and year out, and has been a key part of strategy, product development and marketing meetings for years.

So how do you explain the increase in usage and influence when it comes to traditional travel agents when many over the years have predicted the exact opposite? Could it be the fact that there are overwhelming numbers of options when it comes to taking a trip?

Even a simple trip can include, but not be limited to, transportation to and from a destination, transfers, activities, dining, entertainment, cruise ships bookings and hotel reservations.

It’s all there on the Internet, and is literally just a click away, but who wants to deal with all of that?

I am not willing to spend the extra hour or so changing my own oil when I can pay someone else to do it. How many of you are willing to invest the multiple hours required to properly research a trip or destination?

More and more customers are coming to the same conclusion when it comes to travel. They have come to realize it doesn’t even really cost them money to work with an agent. In fact, they typically save money!

There are plenty of reasons why consumers use travel agents when it comes to booking travel — far too many to cover in this short column. And again, those who do use agents say their agent is extremely or very influential in their overall choice of travel products 62 percent of the time. Depending on the product, it is higher or lower, with influence on hotels and resorts topping out at 66 percent.

Marry these percentages with the fact that these same consumers across the United States booked in excess of $100 billion in travel with a travel agent and what do you have? You have a bright future for existing agents along with the need to train new travel agents.

With all the doom and gloom news about this segment of the travel industry very few people have opted for career training as travel agents. Today many agents are nearing retirement age so the need for new travel professional exists. If you’re interested in finding out more about a travel agent career contact me at theprofessor@gmail.com.

Breaking news: You can now follow the Travel Professor on Twitter and Facebook. The links are www.twitter.com/TheTravelProf and www.facebook.com/TheTravelProfessor

Happy travels!