Updated: Nov 22, 2020
This is a great question and is often asked but for those who have experienced the chaos and stress associated with having handled their own vacation and travel planning and coordination the answer is, "because they are there to help when something happens and to represent me when I need them." And just what does that mean? I am going to explain it a bit below.
The reason to use a professional of any kind is based on the certifications, experience, knowledge, and skills that they possess to ensure that you are getting what you have requested, and paid for, to the standards that are expected and to benefit from their ongoing support in the event that something goes wrong or is faulty. This simple description applies to any professionally trained person who provides goods and/or services for profit. You wouldn't allow just anyone to repair your plumbing or electrical system on your house would you? If you would then you should rethink that choice. Would you rather allow some neighborhood garage dweller to work on your nice new car or would you prefer to trust the maintenance and care to the hands of a certified and trained professional? Again, if you go the neighborhood route you need to rethink your decision making because when something doesn't work right it is going to cost you far more than it ever would have if you just paid the professional to do it in the first place. And all of this applies to the services and support that you gain from the use of a Certified and Trained Travel Professional instead of trying to go it alone or getting caught up in the "we can get you cheap travel" marketing schemes of the traditional online travel agencies (that aren't really travel agencies at all, they just use the name because it catches your attention).
Yes, just like every other professional that provides a good and/or service we often charge for our time and resources but that is because we are a full business just like every other professional and our income comes from the work we do for you. It is frequently believed that we make money from the suppliers of travel products and that we are paid directly by them for selling their products, this belief is inaccurate and misguided. The truth is that we do receive, in some cases, a commission from some suppliers of travel but these commissions are very very small and are not as widespread as you may think. I will tell you straight up that we do not receive commissions from any of the air travel suppliers, we do not receive commission on amenities that are included in your vacation package, we receive super small commissions from cruise lines, rail providers (not all), hotel providers (very few actually), rental car companies (very minimal and not all), and maybe from some resort/theme park companies (again, very limited and not big dollars). And for most travel professionals these commissions are split between the independent advisor and their host agency so you can see that the real income of a travel professional is not what most people think it is.
The biggest advantage to working with a trained travel professional is that they are there for you every step of the way, from the time you start sharing your vacation desires with them all the way through your actual travel itself and beyond, we are there to help with anything that you may need. We are your voice and your advocate with the suppliers and other agencies associated with the travel industry so that you and your needs are represented when you need it most. The most recent global pandemic has brought to light how the value of working with a trained professional travel advisor is worth far more than any service fees that they may charge and I will give you an example right now. Many travelers think that by booking their travel themselves, either directly with the product supplier or through the well known online travel sites (we all know their names so I shouldn't need to spell them out) they are going to save a buck or two and get the best value and the best price. Nothing could further from the truth because these online travel outlets are not really travel agencies nor are any of their "agents" actually professionally trained in the products or services offered by the suppliers that they market. These companies do not get the best pricing, do not have access to the perks and special offers that real travel advisors and agencies do, they do not have access to all of the elements/components that can make up a truly inclusive vacation package, and they are not going to do anything to help you when something happens and your vacation needs to be cancelled, regardless of whether you cancel it or it has been cancelled by the supplier for unexpected circumstances. There are literally hundreds of thousands of travelers who found themselves losing not only their vacation plans but also large amounts of money for these plans when the travel industry had to cancel cruises, resort bookings, airline tickets, and everything else because of the corona virus pandemic that has put a stranglehold on the world. There are also a great many travelers who booked directly with a travel supplier and have run into issues as a result of the global lock-down because they didn't know what they were doing and ended up booking components (or packages) that were non-refundable not protected from penalties for cancellation and didn't pay attention to the supplier agreements and information provided to them. Most suppliers have done good by their travelers as much as they legally could do but other suppliers have taken the approach of acting like they don't owe anyone anything.
I put many hours of time into working on the vacation plans of my clients and I am always available to them for questions or to discuss additional options or plans. I provide my clients with all of the required forms and documents that they will need to embark on their vacation journey and am available to them while they are enjoying themselves wherever they are visiting. Even after I have booked/reserved a travel program for my clients I continually monitor the pricing, programs, offers, etc. so that my client is always getting the most out of their vacation for the best price. If there is anything that comes up where my clients can get even more value out of their investment or there is any unexpected changes to the itineraries or availability of a product, I contact my clients immediately to discuss them and to make the necessary adjustments for them. As a professional travel advisor I have access to more special programs and offers than most agencies can provide and could never be available by either direct booking or going through the online clearing houses and those programs and benefits are dramatically increased by my affiliation with the host agency that I am contracted with because they are one of the top 10 global producers of travel sales and every supplier has special programs and offers that are exclusive only to my host agency and the agents/advisors that are affiliated with them.
My service fees are modest and are well below what you would expect to be charged by other advisor/agencies for less output so when I say I get my clients the most value for their vacation at the best price I mean it because I work for each and every client to the same standard as I do for my own vacation plans. If I don't find a supplier offer worth the time and money to book it for myself, I darn sure will not give them any consideration for my clients because that would just be counter-productive and would not give my client the vacation experience that they are looking for. If you have never worked with a professional travel advisor before then get ready for an experience like never before. I work for my clients not the host agency or any suppliers/providers and my clients are the reason why I do this.