The Globe’s Expert Advice On Booking March Break: Go Online

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

ACTA President Wendy Paradis

TPI CEO Zeina Gedeon

Earlier this week the Globe & Mail published just under 1,000 words advising consumers on how to book last-minute March break getaways. Not one of those words included “travel agent” or “travel advisor” or suggested any form of human interaction in the search for quality family vacation time.

We found it astonishing that Canada’s national newspaper would offer so-called expert travel advice to families without mentioning the thousands of travel agents across the country who sell billions of dollars of travel each year. 

Open Jaw contacted several members of the Canadian travel industry – human ones, who use knowledge, experience, contacts and savvy rather than algorithms to serve their clients -- to get their views on why, despite the fact that millions of Canadians use their services, consumer journalists seem oblivious to their existence.

“We believe the Globe and Mail did a great disservice to their readers by neglecting to mention Travel Agents as a valuable resource for last minute March Break vacations,” said Wendy Paradis, President of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies.

“The personal attention, time savings and great pricing an ACTA member Travel Agent offers when planning a vacation for their customers gives peace of mind that their trip is being tailored to their needs, interests and budget.” 

That’s not to mention one of the biggest benefits of using a travel agent – effective, responsive support in the event that something goes wrong during a trip. That’s not a strongpoint for online travel agencies or discount travel websites.

Zeina Gedeon, CEO of TPI, one of Canada’s largest groups of independent travel agents, says the retail travel industry needs to do a better job of educating consumers on the value of the services they provide.

“I believe the biggest hurdle we have as travel agents is that we don’t put a value to the work we do. If we became like lawyers and charged every customer just to talk to us, customers will see our worth,” Gedeon said.  

“We need to educate the customers on the importance of working with a travel agents. We have ample examples of customers thanking us for thinking of insurance, transfers, early check-in, late check-out, babysitter for the kids, etc. As travel agents we need to be proud and put a price on our work.  Once we value our work, customers will do the same.”

The irony of the omission of travel agents in the Globe article is that research increasingly shows that more consumers are returning to human travel agents after being frustrated by the complexities and limitations of online searching and booking. And younger generations including millennials are among the most vocal converts to travel advisor expertise.

“What’s changing with all of the online providers is we are seeing more FIT travel particularly with the Gen X to the baby boomers,” says Karen Salviato, Manager, Supplier Management, CWT. “They are influenced by social shares and looking for experiences. This is where our true professionals can gain ground. It means investing in education and keeping up but also means picking a lane and becoming a specialist in lieu of a generalist.” 

Dianne Jackson, Director, Travel Product & Technology for CAA, says business is booming and journalists who think travel agents disappeared with the introduction of the Internet need to take another look.

“At CAA Travel, we are continuously working to gather insightful data, tips and tricks that demonstrate the value of working with a trusted travel advisor and are always available and open to partner with journalists looking for new and interesting angles. The seasoned expertise of travel agents and travel companies can provide a lot of added value to journalists working to educate their audiences.”

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.