Should I book my trip online or use a travel agent?

travel-bookingsOnline travel websites have become extremely popular over the past few years, with more and more people booking their holidays and business trips directly – but is this always a safe option?

Along with the benefits of booking your own trip, there is a very real threat of fraud when making purchases online, and travel websites are no exception. Dealing with a travel agent you know and trust won’t just save you time, but you may end up getting an even better deal than you would online – here are some reasons why you should still be using a travel agent.

Accountability

While some travel websites, especially the larger and more established ones, may offer a low risk of fraud, this is not the case with small websites and travel agencies that only offer their services online. Compared to these questionable websites, an established travel agency is a much safer option.

Your travel agent must own a registered company and belong to a professional body that regulates the business activities of all travel agencies in the country – in South Africa this body is known as the ASATA, or the Association of South Africa Travel Agents. Any complaints or cases of fraud can be addressed to this body directly, and legal action will be far easier when a travel agency is involved – the chances of claiming damages from a small website owner is very slim by comparison.

Professionalism

A major benefit of using a travel agent is that your trip will be booked in a professional manner. Travel agents are specially trained to find you good prices on flights, transport, and accommodation, and a good agent will make sure that all the fine details of your trip are sorted out before you depart.

If you have any trouble with your flights or accommodation, your travel agent may also be able to assist you with your queries even if you are far from home in a foreign country. If you book your trip online, you’ll be on your own when the unexpected happens.

Good prices

It’s a common belief that travel agents are expensive middle men who should be cut out, and this idea is heavily promoted by the marketing efforts of online travel websites. However, a good travel agent may have access to special deals and group booking rates that could match the prices offered by a travel website.

When you deal with your travel agent, be clear about your budget and what type of accommodation you’re interested in. Your agent will work with you to book the best value trip within the budget you have specified.

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