Cross-Post: Deluxe Travel Consultants
When hiring a travel agent for your next vacation, it’s important to ask the right questions to ensure that you are choosing the right person to work with. After all, you are entrusting the details of that important purchase to this agent and your needs and wishes should not be left to chance. Not to mention there is a financial stake. You wouldn’t rush into surgery without first asking the doctor questions or let a real estate professional take your money and give you the home they think you would like. Before you hire anyone, especially someone you are spending money with, you should interview your travel professional and make sure their qualifications meet your needs and expectations.
A few questions we suggest you ask are:
How long have you been a travel agent and are you an independent agent or part of a larger agency?
A vacation is an investment and you wouldn’t want to entrust that to just anyone. Asking questions regarding experience is commonplace and should be expected by any travel agent you are working with. Experience does matter with some destinations and especially with complicated itineraries. Access to a larger group of agents, or a larger agency when planning any destination is a valued resource to every travel professional.
Is a new agent a bad investment? No. Just as anyone who’s new to any profession isn’t a liability, there is a learning curve and you want to make sure that they have access to the resources necessary to make your vacation details perfect.
Questions like why your agent chose to become a travel agent should elicit some answers that will help you decide if they are the right agent for you. Their passion, experience and focus should match to your wants and needs for this service. Don’t settle, this is a big investment and you deserve the best.
Are you licensed and insured?
No matter where you live, you should ask any service provider – from your electrician, massage therapist, CPA, to your lawn care professional if they are licensed and insured. Truth is, many aren’t. In certain states such as Florida, there are Seller of Travel laws which require registration. Because we live in Florida and the happiest place on earth is here, we encourage anyone inquiring about travel to Florida to verify Seller of Travel registration.
For more information on Seller of Travel laws visit www.freshfromflorida.com/Business-Services/Sellers-of-Travel and to verify a license check visit csapp.800helpfla.com/cspublicapp/businesssearch/businesssearch.aspx. Other states also have seller of travel laws and as of the date of this blog include California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts. Michigan, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington State.
In addition to seller of traveler laws, if you are working with someone locally, make sure to look up business license activity in your local area. Contact your local government tax office to inquire whether a license is required, and we encourage you to work with small businesses and individuals who take the necessary steps to do the right thing and become licensed.
Don’t forget the insurance. While some states like Florida have a requirement to become insured in order to be licensed, that’s not always the case. Any service-related business should have and maintain insurance for not only their protection but for yours as well. We encourage asking this question for peace of mind and protection of your travel investment.
What are your fees and how do you protect my personal information?
It’s not unheard of to charge a fee for services, so it’s great to ask your travel professional how they will be paid and what the fee for their services is. We hear that grumbling, but yes, the best travel professionals spend hundreds of hours in trainings and building their knowledge – all of which costs them money. That training and knowledge does not come for free and just like you want to be paid for the work you do, so does your travel agent. Inquiring up front helps you both move forward knowing what the business relationship looks like and helps set the expectations of both parties.
No one likes to think about privacy policies and personal information but this day in age it must be discussed. From security breeches to internet hackers, how is your personal information protected? Long gone are the days of paper copies, three-part carbon copies and telephone credit card approvals. Your chosen travel agent should have a safe and secure manner for you both to share information including credit card information to complete your purchase. It should be asked and answered how your information will be stored and if it will be shared. If your agent doesn’t have a response that gives you that safe and secure feeling, move on to another agent.
How often do you train and when was your last training?
While this question is low in our list, it is honestly one of the most important questions you should want answered. Just as in any job, you want your agent to be thriving on the most relevant information in their industry. Even the busiest travel agents find time for training. But not all agents take the initiative to train. Why? For most, they don’t have the money, or they don’t see training as vital to their business. Truth is, training is the life blood of this business and you want your agent connected to pertinent information and especially to suppliers and industry insiders who can help them. If their last training was more then 6 months ago, run, no really, run away and find someone who is engaged in their business enough to schedule trainings into their schedule.
While these four are certainly a good start on an interview with your travel professional, there are many more questions you can ask to get comfortable with selecting your travel agent.
Other questions to consider are:
When and where was your last vacation?
What are some of the vacations you have been planning for clients?
If your agent doesn’t have clients they are working with, then that should be a sign that they aren’t engaged in their business and you should walk, no run, to find an agent who takes their business seriously. If your agent isn’t traveling, or hasn’t traveled in a long time, that should also be a warning sign that your agent isn’t in a business, but a hobby. Are you part of a membership club? Yes, there are “travel clubs” where you pay a monthly membership fee and recruit family and friends into the travel business. These schemes drive real travel agents crazy and asking the right questions will help you see past the smoke and mirrors offered by these “opportunities”. The right questions, the right answers, and making the connection with the right travel professional for your next vacation will ensure your vacation will be in the fight hands. Your vacation should only be planned by someone you can fully trust. It’s an important investment, don’t take it lightly.
We would love to help make your travel dreams come true!
Contact us for more information on our travel planning services.