Yes, Virginia, there are still travel agents.
But it's a pretty reasonable question. For most people, hearing the words "travel agent" evokes a washed-out image of 80s hair and 80s offices, phones ringing, typewriters clacking, perhaps a dot-matrix printer whirring. The world existed solely of the US, the Caribbean, and London/Paris/Rome. It was a simpler time.
For some people, it brings up memories of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and honestly? That's fine too.
But the truth is, the travel market is changing again and travel agents are making a comeback as everyone grapples with the challenges of an increasingly small world.
How'd we get here?
Originally, travel agents were vital to the process. Booking tickets for travel required you to spend time on the phone with multiple companies. You had to know the right people to talk to in the first place, and have the right connections to get something done quickly or fixed when there was a problem. It feels funny to say this now, but there was no self-service - every step involved dealing with people. With no internet - and thus no search engines - a travel agent was pretty much the only place to start.*
Then, the internet came along. As we've learned since, most folks will take any option that doesn't involve talking with other people. And for a lot of travelers it makes sense. Rather than jumping through hoops and dealing with a stranger, you could just book a ticket home for the holidays online in 15 minutes. It was a game changer.
These days, the world has gotten a lot smaller. I believe this is ultimately a good thing, but one "downside" is the Tyranny of Choice - there are so many options out there that you could get bogged down reading through them for the rest of your life. For most people, it's daunting and it can make planning travel so unpleasant they avoid it. But no matter who you are, it's tough to sort through the good information and the bad when you're looking at a place you've never been, half the world away.
It turns out that people - those dreaded other people - are still pretty good at this. I think that these days, travel agents should be more like luxury concierges. They should get to know their clients and their tastes, and then prune down choices for their client. We're still really good at complex analyses that evaluate stuff like price, destination, activities, and whether you can get your morning espresso fix (even in Antarctica). The internet still has a ways to go.
Not to mention, travel agents can ultimately save you a lot of time in today's busy world. Researching a big trip is always difficult - but our services are invaluable even for ordinary travel. After all, what's easier? Spending 30 minutes in a booking app or sending your dedicated agent a text? Someone who knows your preferences can get you booked exactly the way you like in only a few short messages. You can continue living your life while your agent works in the background to manage and monitor your travel.
What do modern travel agents do?
This kind of VIP treatment is not always the exception. At Cloudsea Travel we treat every client with the private, dependable, customized service they rely on. Not to mention, we bring a lot of great perks to the table - check some of them out in our next post!