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Why Use an Travel Agent?
Planning a trip today can be confusing and time consuming. A travel agent not only arranges the various modes of transportation, but also may be able to save you money with early booking discounts, special fares, accommodation details and travel advisories. But, don't just take our word for it. See what the president of Crystal Cruises has to say about using a travel agent.

Benefits of Using an Travel Agent

Travel Agent Q&A:

How do you find a good travel agent?
What should be the determining factor in choosing a travel agency?
What special services do travel agencies offer?
How do I know if my travel agent is consumer-conscious?
How do I know if my travel agent is well trained?
Who uses travel agents?

Click to find a travel agent in your local area

Benefits of Using an ASTA Travel Agent
ASTA travel agents are knowledgeable professionals who uphold a strict code of ethics. The Society provides education, training and resource materials to its members to equip them with the tools they need to offer you the highest quality of service. ASTA travel agents keep up-to-date by attending industry events that offer educational seminars and networking opportunities.

The ASTA membership includes over 20,000 members across the United States and around the world. Most ASTA member agencies offer one-stop shopping for all travel arrangements. To find the ASTA member agency near you, search the ASTAnet Travel Directory.

ASTA's priority is fighting for your best interests. We have a long-standing record of fighting for consumer rights. And, should you ever encounter a problem with an ASTA member, our Consumer Affairs Department is here to help you. We want you to have a safe and happy trip. Start by seeing your local ASTA member travel agency.

More benefits:

  • Save Money! Strong working relationships with travel suppliers and the latest in computer reservations technology enable ASTA agents to access the most up-to-date information on how to get you the best value.
  • Traveler Advocates Your best interests are the priority. ASTA has a long-standing record of fighting for consumer rights and ASTA travel agents are required to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics.
  • Convenience The ASTA membership includes travel agency locations across the country, most of which offer one-stop shopping for all travel arrangements.
  • Service ASTA travel agents are knowledgeable and active in the industry. The Society provides education, training and resource materials to its members to equip them with the tools to offer the highest quality of service.

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How do you find a good travel agent?
Choose one like you would a doctor or lawyer. Get advice from friends and relatives who use an agent they trust. Since travel choices are personal decisions that reflect individual desires and lifestyles, you will want to visit or call several agencies to find the one that best suits your needs. Consider everything from the appearance of the office to the agent's willingness to listen and answer questions. The best agents want to establish a long-term relationship with a client, not just make one sale.

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What should be the determining factor in choosing a travel agency?
Your agency should belong to the American Society of Travel Agents, Inc. (ASTA). With over 20,000 members in 140 countries, ASTA is the largest and most influential travel trade association in the world. Membership includes travel agencies, airlines, hotels, railroads, cruise lines, tour operators, car rental companies and travel schools. 

Through its continuing education and training programs, ASTA prepares its members to operate high-caliber, competitive businesses. Members also use the ASTA Travel Agent Manual, the only comprehensive guide to operating a travel agency. Due to the Society's on-going educational programs, resource materials and stringent Code of Ethics, ASTA travel agents are known as dedicated, hard-working professionals who provide superior service to their customers.

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What special services do travel agencies offer?
As the industry grows more competitive, travel agencies increase the quality and type of services they offer. Agents can arrange all types of domestic and international travel, from hotel and resort accommodations to air and ground transportation, including car rental needs and tour packages. They can provide assistance with insurance protection, passport and visa applications, inoculation procedures and other foreign travel requirements. Many have toll-free phone numbers and offer meeting planning and incentive travel services.

Some agents maintain automated individual profiles that include the client's frequent flyer number, airline seating preference, smoking or non-smoking designation and other specifications for a custom-designed trip.

Arrangements can also be tailored to suit business and vacation objectives, personal interests and budget concerns. Although most provide a wide range of services, some agencies may specialize in areas such as family travel, group travel, adventure travel, ecotourism, the mature market, incentive travel or travel for the disabled.

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How do I know if my travel agent is consumer-conscious?
Membership in ASTA is a sign of consumer awareness. The Society works on behalf of its members to support pro-consumer issues. In addition to lobbying for consumer protection on issues like airline bankruptcy and travel safety, ASTA has an active Consumer Affairs Department that monitors travelers' problems and helps to find solutions. The Society works closely with other travel organizations to continually upgrade service and technology to better serve the traveling public.

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How do I know if my travel agent is well trained?
Ask about your agent's professional background. Many have been trained in business management, travel and tourism or geography. Others have supplemented their agency experience with extensive education and training courses. Some travel agents are Certified Travel Counselors (CTC), having completed an educational program with the Institute of Certified Travel Agents.

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Who uses travel agents?
Travel agents are the leading distributors of travel products and services. Agents book 75% of all air travel, 30% of all hotel reservations and 95% of all cruise reservations. Agents are the only unbiased professionals who can sort through nearly 100,000 daily changes in airfares alone

Experience, constant industry interaction and computer reservations systems make travel agents the only source savvy enough to engineer a relaxing trip out of the fluctuating complexities of travel offerings. So, save yourself time, money and frustration. Call an ASTA Travel Agent - Your Ticket to the World!

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More About the Benefits of Using a Travel Agent

An Open Letter to Travel Editors from Joseph A. Watters,
President, Crystal Cruises

Dear Travel Editor,
"Why should I use a travel agent?"  As a veteran travel executive, that's a question I'm often asked.  Today, with the overwhelming number of sources for travel information (the Internet, cable television, newspapers, magazines, guidebooks, etc.), it's no wonder the consumer is confused.  Yet that's precisely why the services of a professional travel consultant are more valuable than ever.

In January, the television news magazine, 20/20, reported the results of a test in which travel agents beat consumers at uncovering the best airfares.  However, it is much more than the "lowest fare" that provides the compelling argument for a good travel agent.

The best thing an agent can do is to match up a traveler with the vacation that's right for them.  The professional travel consultant builds relationships with their clients to learn their interests and lifestyles, as well as their dispositions.

Below is a list of some of the important services, which are either provided free or for a nominal charge, by travel agents:

1. Distilling the product information:  Through an on-going and time-consuming process of familiarization, continuing education and customer feedback, the agent becomes a travel expert.

2. Investigating and supplying competitive information:  No single supplier is going to advise a consumer that a better route or a better fare is available on a competing carrier.

3. Staying abreast of the most current and timely promotions: Via daily faxes, agent-only e-mail transmissions, and their relationships with their district sales managers, agents are obtaining the most current promotional information.

4. Analyzing the current promotions:  The cheapest is not always the best.

5. Clarifying the fine print, such as cancellation penalties and restrictions:  Again, the benefits of a professional's experience can save a traveler money . . . and headaches.

6. Making recommendations for travel-related options:  Travel agents share the experience and knowledge they accumulate about a variety of travel topics from where to eat, where to shop and what to pack.

7. Simplifying the research and subsequent transaction:  Like a personal shopper, agents can provide one-stop shopping for travelers who require air arrangements, rental cars, cruise accommodations and hotel stays with suggestions that are in the best interest of the client, not the supplier.

8. Enhancing the trip with value-added benefits and amenities:  Agents can add to the client's experience by sending a bottle of wine, providing a special land package, a specific escort or other customer amenities.

9. Using their clout to obtain the best possible in seemingly impossible situations:  Whether it's airline seats, hotel rooms or cruise space, the travel agent has more buying power than the consumer.

10. Getting problems resolved:  The agent serves as the consumer's advocate in the event something inadvertently goes wrong.

The use of outside service providers for many transactions, such as tax preparation, isn't questioned.  Similarly, if one is going to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars, as well as a good chunk of valuable leisure time, it makes great sense to use a professional.

I hope you'll consider sharing this information in future consumer interest columns.








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