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Alumni News

Best Way to Book that Vacation: Agent or Online?

November 22, 2010

With the winds of November in full swing, many of us are dreaming of a warm weather getaway. You can find almost anything with just a click of a mouse. But relying solely on the internet to book your trip may not be the best option. 

Licensed travel consultants have a fixed address and phone number, making them accountable and accessible in an emergency, says Tanveer Qureshi, Travel Consultant with Marlin Travel in Mississauga. Should a tour operator go under, travellers who book online could be stuck dealing with answering machines. “When Conquest Vacations went bankrupt, all our clients were rebooked immediately within a couple of hours, while many people approached us who had booked online and couldn't get an answer for days. It took some people more than six months to get their money back,” recalls Tanveer (Tourism and Travel ’08). 

But don’t you pay more through a travel agency? Booking online may not guarantee you the lowest price, says Victoria Renton, Coordinator of Sheridan’s Tourism and Travel program. “Travel agents can often get you a better deal than you can source online because they have the knowledge of various deals at any given time, not only the price of the moment.” 

Use an online travel service if you want just a plane ticket or a simple, all-inclusive holiday, says Victoria But make sure the operator is a Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO) member, Plus always obtain medical insurance before you travel. 

Use an agent if you are interested in a more customized trip or are planning to go to a more isolated area. Most agents have travelled extensively and are personally familiar with many locales, including more obscure destinations. Themed travel has grown very popular, says Tanveer, with destination weddings and culinary and religious excursions leading the pack. “By meeting with a licensed consultant, travellers can make informed decisions about any trip in a personal, face-to-face setting,” he adds. 

Clearly, the image of a travel agent as an order taker is over. Today’s travel consultants are project managers with in-depth product knowledge, says Victoria. Sheridan’s program is tailored to meet the needs of travel agencies, as well as other related service providers, including airlines and hotels. 

From the looks of it, we’re going to need these grads. The tourism and travel industry already employs about 10% of the country’s workforce, and a labour shortage of 257,000 jobs is predicted for the sector by the year 2025.* With the recession nearly behind us, we should see an increase in travel, predicts Tanveer, so start planning that dream trip! 

* Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council