When news broke on 30 September 2019 that the pioneers of leisure travel, Thomas Cook, had ceased trading after an incredible 178 years, shockwaves reverberated around not just the industry, but the wider public too. How could the name we all know and love, whose shops are on every high street and whose check-in desks are at almost every airport, disappear overnight?
And now, as airlines go bust and we’re dealing with even wider issues in travel, what does this all say about travelling and how to make travel plans?
Eamon Holmes became the voice of the travel agents this week when he declared: “they used to be the past but now they are the future.” As quarantine restrictions change and FCO advisories come and go, we explore why Eamon is right; booking your holiday with a travel agent has never been more important.
Once upon a time, every single dream holiday began in a little shop on the high street. Back then, ours was called Bolsover Travel, a tiny shop with a Bedford Chevanne parked on the kerb outside, duly sign-written to mention our name as the travel experts wherever we went. Miniscule ads in local papers were enough to get the phones ringing off the hook and deals of the day were on window cards not websites. Before online booking, hotel comparison sights and cheap flight deals touting return trips to Europe for a tenner hailed a new era of going it alone, travel agents were the be-all and end-all of holiday planning.
And here’s the thing – they still are.
The demise of Thomas Cook may have left many wondering whether the end is nigh for travel agents in general, not to mention those that have so sadly fallen by the wayside in recent months, but the truth is that having someone to help book your holiday has never been so necessary. We’re in the midst of possibility overload, endless choice at our fingertips, with new ships arriving near monthly and hotels going up like lightning to address our endless sense of adventure.
The world really is your oyster but where does a travel agent sit in terms of how you see it today?
What can a travel agent do that you can’t?
In short, what can a travel agent do that you can’t?
Firstly, knowledge is power.
Midships or aft? Seaview or obstructed balcony? Will you have to tender and what on earth is a muster drill? Cruise jargon means you could find yourself in hot water if you don’t know your aft from your elbow.
Travel agents are fluent in sea speak, visa needs, dining and deck plans. They know which cabin to choose in which to rest your head for the best night’s sleep and make light work of going on holiday with special dietary needs.
Similarly, without a travel agent to help steer you down the right path, even hours of research and reading reviews could see you in the right destination on the wrong ship or vice versa. There is a cruise ship and itinerary for everyone but not for anyone.
Finally, it’s all about the money.
There’s a misconception that going it alone cuts out the middle man and saves you some cash, but that isn’t always the case. For the most part, you’ll receive the best fares when you book through a travel agent, thanks to special campaign offers and schemes like our Cruise Club Cashback that you don’t get when you do it yourself. Furthermore, opting to arrange your trip with a travel agent means you can often pay a small deposit and spread the cost.
And we can’t skirt around the elephant in the room. Booking with a travel agent means that, should the worst happen and your cruise be cancelled, there’s someone on hand to not just call for advice, but also to make sure you receive a refund without hassle. It may take a little time, but when you book with a travel agent you’ll do so with confidence that you’re guaranteed your money back.
Travel agents have moved beyond just bricks and brochures. Whether it is in a high street store, over the phone or online, the knowledge a travel agent offers remains as invaluable and extensive as ever. Let’s keep them around!