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Why Travel Agents Are Rebranding As Travel Advisors

Travel agents have been around for as long as we can all probably remember. The profession started many years ago, long before the internet, when travel agents had to handwrite airline tickets, call into reservation offices to book clients, and was strapped to their desks, landlines, and fax machines. Travel agents have come a long way, and so has their profession.

The unfortunate truth is that the common misconception of travel agents is that they are usually hobbyists looking for discounted/cheap travel, or it’s something to do after retiring from a “real career”. They are typically associated with the rich who have money to spend on a travel agent or those that just want to be lazy and have someone to do all of the work for them. However, we’re very fortunate that professional organizations like the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) have worked for years to advocate for the travel advisor community by changing the public perception of travel agents and helping educate people about the career opportunities and entrepreneurship experiences that are available to today’s travel agents!




Order Takers vs Travel Advisors

Most people do not understand the true value of a travel advisor. They assume that they’ll call in, tell the agent what they want, and then they’re booked – just as simple as calling the supplier directly. So, why in the world would anyone want to contact a Third Party representative when they could just as easily reach out to the supplier and book direct? Well, that’s where Travel Advisors come in. They are not just order takers, they are travel professionals. It is important to note that Travel Advisors work for their clients, not for the suppliers. While they build incredible relationships with their supplier representatives, their main focus is always on their clients. They work as an expert to sift through the different options available to their clients, they have personal experiences of the destinations, hotels, and ships they promote, and they’re able to advocate for their clients at every step of the way.

So, what’s the difference between calling the supplier vs. booking with an advisor? That’s simple. When someone calls a call center, they’re talking to a number of different representatives who do not want to take the time to get to know them as a person. They want to finish the transaction and answer the next call. If a traveler mentions that they’re celebrating their first anniversary and want to create the perfect experience, the call center reps are also limited by what they have to offer – Travel Advisors have access to many different supplier partners and will emphatically educate you on why they believe one supplier, ship, or destination is better for their client’s vacation than another. As I said, they work for clients to make sure they have the best vacation and booking experience possible, not the supplier!

In 2019, ASTA changed its name from the American Society of Travel Agents to the American Society of Travel Advisors which “more accurately describes the value our members provide to consumers and is a distinct declaration of whom we work for: the traveling public,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA’s President. This helped move the perception that travel advisors are not just “agents” working in the capacity of a booking agent, but rather, similar to CPAs and other professionals, their job is to properly advise their clients on the best vacation experience from start to finish – and even after the trip has completed. The truth is, many travel advisors are also local small business owners, and even if they do not own the business themselves, they want to build relationships with their clients in the same capacity as if they are business owners because they hope for repeat and referral business from their amazing clients.




Travel Advisors Emerge on Top

From 2020-2022, the impact on travel was particularly severe, but it also changed the landscape of the travel industry. As the Covid pandemic spread across the globe, many people were afraid to travel for fear of contracting the virus or spreading it to others. In response, many governments implemented strict travel restrictions that limited the movement of people around their borders.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Americans took 2.8 billion fewer trips on the 4th of July in 2020 than they had the previous year—on average, 19.7% stayed home each day during holiday weeks. The global tourism industry had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with total export revenues falling from $1.2 trillion in 2020 to just over $910 billion worldwide due to decreased demand for travel and tourism-related goods and services. (Tourism And Covid-19 – Unprecedented Economic Impacts )

In the first year of the pandemic, we saw a considerable increase in the number of people who had to cancel their trips. This devastating year of travel caused many travel advisors to leave the industry. It either forced people into different job markets or caused people to recognize that the stress of the job was no longer worth it for them. However, in 2021 and 2022, travel numbers shot up and increased exponentially – even higher than that of 2019. With the fears that people faced in 2020, the long hold times they had to endure with travel suppliers, and the hardships they faced when trying to cancel, book, or rebook their own travel directly with the suppliers they booked with, many people started looking to Travel Advisors for assistance.

Travel Advisors ARE the experts. They have the resources to stay up to date with current travel restrictions and protocols, they are able to navigate the new travel landscape, and, probably most importantly, they were able to give back precious time that their clients realized they’ve been losing.

For travelers who had hired a travel agent or advisor to arrange their trips—rather than book directly with the airline—it was different. People who rescheduled flights or canceled them together often found themselves charged extra fees. When they needed help from airline customer-service representatives, they could not get an answer right away and might have even just been disconnected after hours of waiting. Frustrations grew, but so did the value of a travel professional!

Not to mention, with the new era of technology, clients are inundated with options – deals, promotions, suppliers, hotels, destinations, cruise lines, etc. The industry continues to grow and change, and it’s up to Travel Advisors to help clients sift through all of this for their clients. They do so more than just help travelers book their next trip. They interpret terms & conditions from supplier promotions, explain the importance of travel protection, they helped navigate the myriad of suppliers and destinations available while also explaining which ones provided the best service over the last 2 years, and help travel advisors come out looking like rockstars!!





What is the difference between Travel Agents and Travel Advisors?

Well, not much. The roles are essentially one and the same: a travel advisor helps you book your flights, hotels, and tours. However, personal attention is the centerpiece of any travel advisor’s approach to client service and satisfaction. Service does not end just because the trip does. A Travel Advisor works to build a relationship with their clients, and many are referred to other family and friends for a job well-done!

Much like financial advisors and attorneys, Travel Advisors work to provide maximum value for clients by helping them understand the different options available when planning a trip. As travel became more complicated and costly, agents evolved from simply booking trips into trusted advisors who help consumers make complex decisions about their journey. Travel Advisors know the best course of action for any given situation on a trip. Even if something unexpected happens, they’re prepared to deal with it and make sure their client’s trip goes as smoothly as possible.
Travel Advisors do more than just book travel for their clients though, they get to know as much about their clients and their vacation experiences as possible. They work to get to know their client’s preferences, their traveling companions, and so much more. They typically specialize in a particular area of expertise whether it is a destination, a travel niche, or a specific supplier. They truly become the expert by learning everything there is to know for their clients – from spa reservations to drink packages, to all-inclusive inclusions and local activities. They customize and curate experiences, they offer concierge-style services, and they typically even charge a fee. That’s right, many travel advisors also charge a professional fee for their services, but we’ll talk more about that some other time.






Travel agents are a huge part of the travel and tourism industry, but the industry is changing. As technology advances, so does the way people do business. Travel agents have had to adapt their roles and find new ways to provide value to their clients.
Whether you call them Travel Advisors or Travel Agents, this new variety of travel professionals play very different roles in the process of planning a trip. They are focused on selling products and services with a more holistic approach to helping clients find the right trip for them. Travel advisors are more likely to go above and beyond simply booking a flight or hotel— they help their clients dream about their vacation, create custom itineraries, select restaurants and activities in the destination city, and even follow-up after the trip is over to continue building the relationship with their client.

Travel Advisors are experts and are more focused on providing value and incredible experiences to their clients rather than on moving from one sale to the next. They help clients weigh all options before booking a trip and present reasons why one option might be better than another, rather than pressing for a quick sale. While there will always be some people who prefer dealing directly with airlines and hotels or who don’t want any help planning their trip at all, most want someone who can help them get the most out of their travel experience.




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Steven Gould

Steven Gould

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