The Travel Adviser: Vote early, vote often
Every member of this Knesset and every single legislator have utilized one professional in their professional and personal careers: the travel agent.
Ballots are printed ahead of elections Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Naftali Bennett uses one. The prime minister and his wife, before taking office,
couldn’t fathom not using one. Shaul Mofaz, Tzipi Livni and Zehava Gal-On
exclusively use one. Dasvidanya, but even Avigdor Liberman communicates with his
in Russian. Election Day is upon us, replete with a legally mandated vacation
day legislated by the Knesset.
One fact that has escaped the minutia of
the media is that every one of the 120 members of this Knesset and every single
legislator since the creation of the State of Israel have utilized one
professional in both their professional and personal careers: the travel
Esteemed economist Pinchas Landau, in this very newspaper, takes
umbridge with this factoid and declares, “Sometimes you can actually see the
global mega-trends that you read about taking shape in front of you at the most
micro level possible.”
In the past, he graciously admits, his travel
agency, being both efficient and knowledgeable, was able to match the online
offer or beat it, either in price or in other areas. Sadly, he informs his
readers; his recent request left his travel agent comprehensively defeated.
Perhaps if he had found this exercise repeated several times, I might entertain
his stark conclusion that the search engines are so sophisticated that no travel
agent can compete.
I’m sorry to inform you Mr. Landau, but the death of
my fellow travel consultants has been greatly exaggerated! What is the role of
the travel consultant and how has it changed? Travel consultants work hard on
behalf of the consumer. Let that resonate again.
While airlines, hotels
and rental car suppliers ply us with their products, affirming that they offer
the best product, the travel agent’s only client is the consumer. Yes, the vast
majority of the travel providers pay commission to the travel consultants, but
their role is to make a trip – whether for work or pleasure – a stress-free and
Blessed with search engines unmatched by the Kayaks
or Travelocitys, their knowledge, accumulated by years of experience, is
unparalleled. It’s trite to say that “without a travel agent, you’re on your
own,” but this does exemplify their importance and the way professional travel
consultants view their role in today’s changing market.
The job of a
travel consultant has grown and adapted to reflect the changes within the travel
industry and the difference in the way people think about travel. We realize
that consumers today have done their homework and are more knowledgeable about
what they want than ever before.
Your travel consultant:
product information to provide his clients with the most competitive
• Stays abreast of the most current and timely
• Clarifies the fine print, such as cancellation penalties
• Makes recommendations on travel-related
• Simplifies the research and subsequent transaction.
Enhances the trip with value-added benefits and amenities.
• Uses his
clout to obtain the best possible arrangements in seemingly impossible
situations. (Do you remember Hurricane Sandy?)
• Gets problems
WE DON’T live in a bubble. The Internet has transformed the
travel industry. It helps educate the consumer by providing vast amounts of
information about destinations and different travel options.
and travel consultants alike have benefited from the Internet, which makes the
possibility of travel to exotic places more realistic. Consumers can see in full
color, and in some cases in real time, the place they would like to visit. As
Landau wrote, it gives travelers the ability to do comparative shopping for
attractive deals or packages.
While the Internet is a powerful tool, a
person has to understand where to look and what questions to ask; otherwise,
hours will be wasted surfing the Web and ultimately results will be
This is where a travel consultant can make a world of
difference. Keep in mind that travel consultants take courses, participate in
seminars and become destination specialists in order to ensure they make each
client’s travel experience as personalized, convenient and memorable as
possible. The Internet can be a valuable resource, but it cannot replace the
expertise and guidance of a travel consultant.
Most vital: during travel
crises, the Internet can’t replace a human being who will persist to help a
client get restitution.
There are some things technology cannot
replicate, and the personal touch is one of them. At a time when travelers are
stressed out with hectic schedules, the travel consultant has all of the
information at his or her fingertips.
The most dramatic difference
between reserving an air ticket with a travel consultant versus the Internet is
the obvious one.
When you book a ticket online, be it Easy Jet or Delta,
you pay for the ticket at the time of the reservation.
With a travel
consultant, you you may have 24 hours, a week or several months after you make
the reservation to place your purchase. The price may change in either
direction, but you are not forced to hand over your credit card
Can you really envision a businessperson closing her travel
schedule weeks in advance to the whims of an Internet site? How many readers
have already purchased their tickets for their summer trip? People are fickle;
situations change; an elderly parent can be involved; that vital business deal
is not yet set.
I constantly advise travel professionals that if they
cannot add value to their client’s trip, they should not be in this
If you need a one-way ticket to London next week, I’ll be the
first to tell you to go online to Easy Jet’s site and make the
I’ll advise you also to purchase traveler’s insurance to
protect you if you’re too ill to fly, but in all honesty, there’s no need for a
travel consultant to assist you. But if you’re planning a multi-city trip to the
US, switching planes and airlines in Europe, as Landau alluded to, then it’s
almost folly not to turn to your travel agency.
Need I point out that
airlines rarely cooperate with each other, even in these days of vaunted airline
alliances? The El Al plane to London is late, resulting in missing the
connection on American Airlines to New York.
More often than not,
American blames El Al, El Al claims that American Airlines must take
responsibility. All the while, you, the challenged passenger, must navigate
between the whims and good wishes of the underpaid, overworked airline employee
who shunts you off from one counter to the next.
When weather affects
your plans and the line is moving at a snail’s pace while you attempt to reach
the airline counter, wouldn’t you rather be in the hands of your travel
consultant? Every travel agency is different and, accordingly, some are better
suited to a given consumer than others. Ask around: Tap the resources of
friends, neighbors and relatives who use a travel consultant they trust. Visit
or call several agencies to find the one that best suits your
Consider everything, from the appearance of their office to the
agent’s willingness to listen to and answer questions. The best agents want to
establish a long-term relationship with a client, not just make one sale. Make
sure the agency has a 24-hour line, manned by travel professionals – not a phone
Landau begs to differ: “The result is that human travel agents
have been rendered expensive and inefficient, so that the process of
technological change has reached past the point where humans are no longer
necessary. Physical travel agencies employing human agents are on the way to
Like the nonsense verse poem “Jabberwocky,” written by Lewis
Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass, his whimsical conclusion leaves me
Unlike those characters, travel consultants are not on the
road to extinction. In times of emergency, be it volcanic ash or a hurricane,
their personal touch will provide recourse. While all those around you may be
losing their heads, your travel agent’s calmness will see you through the
Mark Feldman is the CEO of Ziontours Jerusalem. firstname.lastname@example.org