A Travel Agent is a professional who advises, books and sells tours, holidays and vacations for domestic and international customers. They offer expert advice on a range of topics, including itinerary planning, accommodation options and tour activities, visa requirements, medical insurance policies and local attractions and events. They may also book air or ground transportation, recommend tour operators and arrange car rental and hotel stays for their clients.
In some states of Australia, travel agents are regulated by the state’s respective consumer protection laws. They are also required to be members of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), which sets a standard for professional behavior and provides a dispute resolution service for consumers. In addition, AFTA members must meet education and experience requirements and be committed to ongoing professional development.
Despite the popularity of online booking tools, travel agencies remain an important part of the tourism industry. The Australian Federation of Travel Agents explains that “travel agents are licensed, experienced and highly trained to plan the perfect holiday for their customers.” Their services include assessing travel needs, researching airfares, accommodation and tours, making reservations and advising travelers on passport and visa requirements, baggage allowances and other regulatory matters. They are also knowledgeable about specific destinations and can provide specialised travel information, such as cultural and religious practices and customs and language barriers.
In addition to selling cruises, many Australian travel agents specialise in luxury travel. Some are members of Luxury Travel Advisor, a global network of travel professionals who specialize in high-end holidays. Others are part of larger companies, such as Flight Centre and its luxury travel brand Scott Dunn. The latter is now owned by a consortium of private equity firms and plans to invest in new technology and expand into the U.S. market, where it lags behind competitors.
A major reason some Aussies choose to book their own trips is due to the difficulty in finding affordable cruise fares on home soil. Cruise Critic reader Yvonne M., for example, booked a family trip to Japan and China through an online seller in the U.S., only to be denied boarding at the ship’s departure because the agency had failed to obtain visa documentation for her and her spouse. (The company eventually issued a refund.)
Travel agents in Australia can also help with corporate business travel arrangements. Some of the best have a dedicated team for this niche, which can assist with everything from booking flights and hotels to managing travel itineraries and providing real-time information on weather and other conditions in key destinations. They can also tap into negotiated airfares and accommodations not available to the general public, as well as provide 24/7 support for staff on the go. They are the ideal partner for businesses wanting to lift the overall quality of their travel program. AFTA member Spencer Travel offers just such a service for their corporate clients. They are trusted by many Australian businesses to manage their business travel program and ensure employees have an enjoyable trip while keeping costs down. Australian Travel Agent