If there’s anything travelers have learned from the Internet, it’s that there’s an obscene amount of information out there regarding travel.
If there’s anything travelers have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that the shelf life of information regarding travel on the Internet is remarkably short. Travel restrictions change validity dates, hotels and attractions open and close, and nonstop flights that are available one day suddenly disappear as airlines scramble to rework schedules.
Even outside the midst of a global crisis, the amount of information travelers must contend with when planning their journey is massive. Travelers who research and plan their journey with the assistance of a professional travel advisor have a seasoned expert right on hand to help them sift through all the muck.
When I was a travel advisor, years ago, one of my clients was a mom who was sending her two kids to their dad’s house in Scotland for the summer. The kids had made the trip before, but because the older child was now beyond the age where the airline would require him to travel as an unaccompanied minor, how should they travel, she wondered? It’s not the kind of answer one really wants to crowdsource.
It’s not that professional travel advisors know everything about travel—but what they often do know is where to source the most reliable information. In that particular case, the airline’s own advisor resources were just the ticket.
The client’s kids had a trouble-free journey to and from Scotland, even though one of them was “too old” to travel as an unaccompanied minor, and “too young” to be considered an adult capable of looking after his sister. The itinerary required a change of airlines (always a complicated wrinkle for unaccompanied minors), and the delivering carrier almost canceled the reservation three days before departure because they were unsure they’d be staffed to handle unaccompanied minors at the smaller Scottish arrival airport.
Now, imagine handling that situation without a little bit of help.
Many travel advisors today prefer the term “Travel Consultant,” a term that better reflects their role as sourcing sleuths instead of just intermediaries between travel consumers and travel suppliers. I also tend to like “Travel Advocate,” for there are many situations where advisors must also put their sourcing skills to work advocating for their clients’ needs, like when suppliers cancel or change arrangements, requiring rebooking or refunds.
Today, in the midst of a pandemic, many travel advisors have put together working lists on various country’s travel restrictions, and they can also help clients sift through often confusing information about whether borders are open or closed, which destinations require quarantine, and which hotels are allowing flexibility for prepaid reservations.
When travel advisors aren’t meeting with clients or visiting their most popular destinations on-site inspections, their time is often dedicated to research. If the U.S. State Department issues a travel warning for a specific area, they might call a client they know has recently traveled in the region for their own perspective.
Others dedicate significant time to learning about destinations via destination specialist courses designed by destination marketing organizations (which almost all maintain healthy resource sections for advisors to reference after the training is completed).
In short, advisors shine for their clients when travel gets confusing, not because they’re experts on travel (even though they are) but because they’re experts on information—if they don’t have it available, they know exactly where to find it, and whether to trust it.
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