Questions often arise in a travel industry as to why agencies still so popular. After all, travel apps are now capable of doing our thinking for us - the biggest online travel firms handle bookings for multiple parts of your holiday at once, letting you combine your flights, hotels and even car hire into one booking. The online travel market is the biggest it’s ever been, with different sites tailored for bargain-hunters, luxury travellers and seasoned backpackers alike. Yet, despite the vast amount of data they plough through to find you the best price, most require an incredibly specific set of instructions before they’ll get to work.
Skyscanner, for instance, will find you the cheapest flights between London and Tokyo for any given day, and will let you narrow those options down by limiting long layovers or only displaying direct flights. But it’s up to you to find out which days are the cheapest: not every airline flies every day, and you’ll usually save cash if you fly out and back on the same carrier.
That means, if you’re free to travel any day of the week, repeating every search seven times; and if you’re OK with your holiday being a flexible length, you might even have to run up to 49 separate searches.
And what if your flexibility is more than just travel times? Suppose you’re not sure whereabouts you want to go? You could fly in and out of any combination of airports. Now you’re looking at potentially hundreds of separate searches to find the cheapest holiday - time that really would be better off spent doing something more productive.
In amongst all of these searches, you’ll also have to factor in hotels, too. If your trip clashes with a big conference or event at your destination, then prices might get pushed up. Would it work out cheaper overall to switch around the order of your trip if you’re visiting more than one place?
Here travel agencies come into their own. Unless you know exactly what you want from a holiday and are prepared to trawl through tens of searches to find the perfect solution, a travel agency is always a better option. If you have a vague idea of where you’d like to go, then travel consultants will be able to handle your requests a lot more easily than a search engine. Not only do a travel team have years of experience in providing holidays that people enjoy and recommend, they’ve often been to explore many of the destinations themselves and so can talk you through exactly what to expect. You might even get suggestions of holidays that you’d never even have known existed otherwise.
So until apps are capable of advanced holiday recommendations and easier booking, travel agents seem to have the edge on this one. Which is an odd state of affairs: in an age of fear over algorithms destroying jobs, the people are still beating the algorithms at the seemingly easily automatable job of checking databases of prices and places.
It may not last, but until it does, it might be worth considering a visit to your flesh-and-blood travel agent – at least, if you want anything complex from a holiday.
Are you looking to jet off this year or next? Get in touch with our Holidays By Design and see how we could help!