Do We Need Travel Agents in a Post-Lockdown Holiday?

Travel BlogWhy need travel agents

In a world where travel agents were already been branded as a luxury add-on and independent travel blazed its own path, why should people even consider a travel agent? Turns out, we should.

With the world opening bit by bit determinedly, the latest being Australia and Fiji, it looks like the normal we left behind in 2019 is finally coming back. And no industry is happier than travel and tourism. And why should it not, the largest employer by industry took the hardest sock to the jaw. Travel agents, especially.

But is opening enough? In a time where the beleaguered industry is trying its best to claw back to normalcy, what will return and what has changed permanently? Let’s dive into what roles can travel agents perform in this uncertain time, and are they even needed?

Travel Agents and OTAs, Pre-Pandemic

This section is basically for those who have never travelled a day in their lives. Before coronavirus stopped the world from all but functioning; travel and tourism was king, literally. Holidays abounded across the globe and the stories trending then sounded like

  • Residents of places like Catalina, Valencia and Venice were lobbying their governments hard for restricting tourists from overcrowding their beaches, waterways and cities.
  • Virgin Group forayed into the cruise segment with the launch of Virgin Voyages and Scarlet Lady.
  • Destinations like India, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and others were forecasting multi-billion earnings from 2020.

Well, we know what happened after November 2019, but… aren’t you smiling a little and thinking, ‘Yeah, like all they thought turned out egg-zactly.’ Travel agents were doing well, but online travel agents and services like Airbnb, Kayak and others had (and still have) the lion’s share of the travel bookings sphere. Be independent, they said. Take charge of your travel and save up to 25% of your budget from commissions and all.

People ended up saving 100% of their holiday budgets, as it turned out.

Sure, it’s true. Planning and executing holidays by yourself does lead to savings. It helps travellers get into the nitty-gritties of where they’re going, the interesting and off-beat places they can experience and learn/research about their holiday destination intimately.

But let’s give a pre-pandemic example to a pre-pandemic situation. In Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, the narrator talks about Ralph Fiennes’ protagonist M. Gustave, the manager of the hotel and a member of the secret ‘Society of the Crossed Keys’. It was a cabal of hotel managers helping each other out with special favours and out of sticky situations. To paraphrase a quote from the film into our device, a great travel agent ‘anticipates the client’s needs before the needs are needed.’

We’ve countless stories of when travel agents helpfully interrupted travellers’ dream holiday itineraries with tidbits like, ‘Oh, the show is temporarily on hold and can’t be booked’, or ‘You will need to book a return cab before you set out – the place gets quite desolate by the time your tour ends’. But good travel research gets it done all the time. Well, 70% of the time. Give or take 10%.

Travel Agents and OTAs. Now.

The enforced hiatus by COVID-19 has certainly taken a toll on the world. But we can’t stay stuck inside our homes and become the Zoom generation. No disrespect to the app, it has been an angel in our times of need, though. Still.

The world is opening now and with it, our hopes of travelling far and wide. But there are millions across the world who are still fighting over refunds for cancelled flight tickets, hotel reservations, tour bookings and more. Who can blame people for trepidations when travelling abroad now? And to be brutally honest, this is not the first time a few countries have opened borders. Seychelles, New Zealand, Oman and other countries opened their iron borders, some for tourism and some for just important travel. All of them were clamped shut when COVID numbers spiked. So… not really breaking news, this.

The Travel Agent: On top of everything with a laptop, a notebook and a can-do attitude!

Travel Agents & Regulations Flux

Independent travel, in a nutshell, will be hard. Let’s try and count the basic reasons why.

  1. Countries have a constant flux of rules when it comes to COVID and managing infected travellers bringing in new variants. One has to be subscribed to the destination and your country’s heath body notices and advisories as and when they are publicized.
  2. Visa Stipulations: Most countries are now making it mandatory to be double vaccinated before even thinking of booking a flight outside the country. That being said, not all vaccines are considered kosher by all countries. There are several vaccines which are being tested by the regulatory bodies of countries and that takes time.
  3. COVID testing: Again, almost all countries open for travel right now have requirements of a negative COVID-19 test. This, in some cases, is an RT-PCR test, or a lateral COVID flow test. Some require a second test post landing, from specific trusted laboratories.
  4. Quarantine: Ah, the dread word of this decade. There are snap quarantine being pushed by most all countries. Australia and New Zealand, especially have incredibly strict quarantine rules.
  5. Travel restrictions: There are still places which are restricted to travellers, just because there aren’t that many people vaccinated there.

So, future travellers must keep a hawk’s eye on all the above conditions rigidly. Because any of the above can change overnight. There are plenty more aspects than what we’ve mentioned here, of course. For example, flights are going to be expensive whether you book them months in advance or last-minute. Hotel policies must follow government regulations and are equally in flux at any given moment.

Or they can have a travel agent do it for them.

Travel Agents, reinvented for New Age Travel?

Not exactly. Travel agents aren’t going to solve the COVID-19 and travel problem, that’s for sure. We wish we could, but… yeah.

What travel agents can do is what they have been specializing in all this while! Be in touch with government advisories, airlines, hotels and resorts, tour operators, and be familiar with the destination in question. And now, that’s going to be huge point. Would you, as a traveller, be able to handle any and all problems that might crop up in a world learning to live with COVID? Or is taking paid help of an expert a smart choice?

At Hideaway Holidays, our South Pacific Specialists have been working round the clock, handling thousands of requests for travel information, which countries are opening up (‘so where can we go now, honey?’ is by far our most common query!), questions on travel insurance, coverage, how and what are the resorts doing to be COVID proactive and cherry-picking the best deals in the South Pacific. It’s all in a day’s work for us.

Hey! You made it all the way to the end of the blog. Wow! Thanks, looks like we were interesting enough. Want to read more about what to do in the South Pacific on a holiday? Worry not, we got your back. Check out our blogs on Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa and other islands – enjoy.

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