It must be hard to be a travel agent these days, what with everyone thinking that you’re irrelevant now that it’s possible to book most everything, anywhere, on the Internet.
And I must admit, for about the last 5 years I’ve not used a travel agent for anything: I’ve probably booked $50,000 worth of air travel for myself and my extended family during this time, using the Air Canada website and Expedia websites to book, and a variety of other sites, like CheapTickets and Travelocity to comparison shop.
And I’ve done pretty well. For short trips — Toronto, Boston, New York — I can’t see any reason to do anything else, especially now that travel agents are starting to charge processing fees as their commissions get cut more and more by the airlines.
But this is not a story about not using a travel agent.
In the middle of February the wee family and I are going off the beaten track for real (at least the beaten track as defined by “usual destinations for parents of 15 month old children”) and heading to Thailand for about three weeks.
When we made the decision to travel, I sent off faxes to three travel agencies here in Charlottetown. The only agent to reply in suitable detail was George Stewart at Admiral. I got an almost instant acknowledgement of my fax by return email, and a choice of three itineraries within 12 hours. Over the next 2 weeks, George fiddled and twiddled with the itineraries in response to our whims, and today we wrote out the Big Cheque (it’s cheap in Thailand, getting there is another thing altogether!).
I found dealing with George a pleasure: he’s entirely email immersed, and responds quickly, usually within an hour or two. He didn’t bat an eye at any request we made of him.
If you go to Expedia and search for the lowest published fare from Halifax to Bangkok, they’ll tell you it’s $1917. Travelocity’s lowest published fare is $1902. Of course those are only published fares, and when you start looking at actual seats available on actual planes, you start getting quoted fares in the $3000 per person range.
George got us tickets on Air Canada and Japan Airlines for $1500 each ($1200 for wee Oliver).
So we dealt with a local business, saved money, and earned some peace of mind from dealing with someone who knows the territory. I’ll probably continue to book my own flights to Boston and Toronto, but for anyone else, George is my man.
My brother is currently working a stint in Thailand… just 40 minutes outside Ching Mai (sp?). My father is going to visit him in February as well… kinda funny how now I know 2 people going to a pretty obscure place at the same time. He’s got himself a ticket to Holland and then flies to Thailand from there. The fares are much more competive as he paid less then $1000 for return first class seats from Amsterdam. I know, being Dutch you wouldn’t think he’d spring for the expensive seats but it is a very long flight.