It turns out, there are a ton of reasons to work with a travel agent, but first things first: Don't call them that. "We're not travel agents anymore; we're travel advisers," says Erika Richter, director of communications at the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), in an email interview. "It's official — we rebranded from the American Society of Travel Agents to the American Society of Travel Advisors in 2018. This change wasn't just a simple adjustment in nomenclature. Our rebrand marks the transformation of the travel industry's core transactional agent to a more holistic adviser."
OK, noted. But given the dizzying array of sites and services dedicated to self-service travel arrangements, why would anyone still choose to work with a professional? "If time is money, today's travel advisers are asset managers," Richter says. "They help you make the most of your valuable vacation time with their expertise, maximizing your spend with access and perks and giving you the peace-of-mind that someone has your back ... no matter what."
According to Richter, the modern travel adviser isn't who you might expect. "In the days before the internet, they were the original vacation hack: travel agents, in offices packed to the gills with brochures, once held the keys to the world — exclusively so," she says. "They would do the reconnaissance around the globe and become destination experts. Then these far-flung explorers, attaché case in hand, would return home to sell the fantasy of adventure and leisure while serving as necessary go-betweens to handle reservations. They sent out paper tickets of thick card-stock and secured plum commissions from airlines. Remember? Depending on when you became old enough to travel on your own, you might not remember."
And if you do remember, then you might still be wondering what's changed. "At its surface, the difference between 'travel agent' and 'travel adviser' is nothing more than subtle semantics," Richter says. "But it's actually a significant development: The gravitation toward use of 'adviser' hinges on the exact role the travel professional now plays for the client. We're moving away from the transactional 'middleman' and toward a collaborative, hands-on process between an adviser and a client. A travel adviser is your personal concierge and your best friend. They know your preferences and travel style. They provide strategic guidance for your vacation, from soup to nuts, well beyond the actual ticketing."
So what exactly are the soup and nuts in this scenario? Here are five things travel advisers are way more equipped to handle than us regular, app-downloading, travel blog-following folk: