With a Travel Agent or online
I started in the travel industry in 2003 when I was 23 and straight out of Uni with no real direction of what I wanted to do. In my first week I got a call from my dad telling me that Qantas had dropped their commissions and am I sure if this is the right job for me, I reply "I'm sure" (not sure but have to fake it till I make it!). Agents have been under fire for nearly a decade as "competing" with the Internet while holding onto commissions as for the most part this is what their livelihood is dependent on.
It took me probably 3 years before I felt like I'd "made" it. That is to say that I'd built my business up to a level that Flight Centre recognised as successful and another year before I felt successful. It was hard to define what success even meant. Was it that I wasn't the greatest consultant in the beginning because I was young, inexperienced and new to the business? I didn't have the knowledge to sell like my colleagues and it took a lot of persistence and hard work to prove myself. Remember that this was before the Internet is like it is now. Google didn't exist, we still had paper tickets, we relied on faxes and emails from overseas taking longer than we'd have liked but working with what we had. Success with Flight Centre means you sell a lot of travel consistently. It takes time to learn the ins and outs of the industry, to learn the rules and how to break and bend them.
Nowadays, its "easy" to book online. If you know what you're looking for. If you trust the websites you're booking with. I can tell you first hand that in the event of a crisis there will be a time that you wish that you didn't book online. The kids get sick, your passport has expired and you didn't notice, volcano's, airline strikes, train strikes, natural disasters. I've worked through them all. Problem solving is a big part of my job. When you book online and you want to change something, you sit on hold for a very, very long time to speak to someone. Or you email / call/ text your travel agent. We don't like to sit on hold, we like to be able to resolve your problem for you. This is one reason why there is value. This is why we charge for our time.
I get asked all the time if the Internet has stopped people booking with Travel Agents.
The answer is NO. I worked through the GFC in 2009 and our business grew 10% that year. Travel agents are successful because of their skill at planning, logistics, research and budgeting skills. We spend our time in an industry that over time has gotten more complicated and confusing with so many ways to compare that it becomes a bigger mess than when there were brochures to flick through. While we do sometimes charge for our time it is well worth the money for our expertise, contacts and knowledge.
There are times when you might get a Travel Agent who doesn't have enough experience, in the same way you might encounter a doctor who isn't the best, lawyers who don't have the expertise in a field you might need and eye specialists that might need to get a second opinion, I understand that sometimes booking with a Travel Agent seems like a waste of time. It seems like you can do it all yourself and you can. However, a Travel Agent with years of experience can look after all aspects of your booking, from flights, to hotels, to transfers, restaurant bookings and more. Yes you can do it yourself.. but while you're doing something else, it pays a salary to professionals who's job it is to take all that hassle away from you.