/ Travel & Leisure

Should we pay travel agents up front?

Hands holding globe

Travel agents have begun trialling mandatory fees for their service, but even though costs used to be hidden, is there even room for travel agents when we can just book our holiday online?

Thomson, First Choice and Co-op recently announced that they’d be trialling mandatory service fees at some of their travel agent outlets.

Whether their customers would be willing to pay a little more for their advice isn’t clear, especially when many are happy to book online.

In a first for a long time, I used a travel agent to book my last holiday. Previously I’d been caught up, like so many of us, with controlling my decisions by clicking away on the internet. But the options were just too phenomenal and overwhelming.

How could I possibly have time to sift through the two million Google search results for ‘family holidays in New Zealand’? Clearly I don’t, but there was a time when I would’ve at least tried…

Instead, I came to the realisation that if I waited any longer to book my holiday, the prices would either rocket further, or worse, there wouldn’t even be any seats left.

So I called an agent. He was fantastic and sorted it all out for me. All I had to do was hand over my credit card details. It was easy, saved loads of time and when I later checked against internet prices, I was more than happy with the overall cost.

The agent didn’t charge me for the service, nor for using my credit card, for that matter.

Looking back, would I have been willing to pay a service fee to that travel agent? Well, yes, I probably would have. They were incredibly efficient, had a great knowledge of the destination and were prepared to adjust my itinerary if I changed my mind.

A quality service needs to be paid for somewhere, whether hidden in the price of the holiday, or an up front charge.


If Travel Agents wish to charge fees, they be obliged to declare the commissions which they receive from the travel providers.
This would mean that there would be total transparency regarding the total amount of income which they make from the transaction.
This is already done by Independent Financial Advisers.

Michael Kane says:
15 July 2010

We should welcome the chance to support and promote QUALITY service, but regrettably too often we are poorly served by ill trained front line staff with little product knowledge.Commission payment up front would do little to improve the situation.

Travel Agents used to get 7% commission on Air Tkts sold. then it got reduced over time to nothing. Holiday packages have also been squeezed. For the back packer on line bookings are the deal.If you need guidance or suggestions and are willing to pay then there are some real experts out there to help.

On line bookings are fine until things go wrong. The recent Icelandic volcano showed this. People booked with packages via travel agents generally got looked after but those who booked themselves direct or were with the cheaper travel agents didn't. Our friend got an extra week in the Canaries staying at the same hotel, others with him, but different travel agents, were moved in to a cheaper hotel.

People don't have the time to visit a high street travel agent anymore. It's much easier just to browse the internet at your own leisure and explore ALL the possibilities available to you rather than being limite to what's available at a particular travel agency. But, like the previous post, the problems arise when things go wrong. Always best to get comprehensive travel insurance – that's what we do

Richard says:
22 July 2010

I think it's partly a generational thing. I still rely totally on the internet, but my parents like talking it over with someone. Dad was even buying his rail tickets with a travel agent until I showed him how much he could be saving by buying online!

But for those who want agents, an upfront fee might be a better way – as it seems to be with IFAs. Still, if, like Rochelle, you're happy with the outcome does it matter? Is it just a question of transparency – seeing their commission on the invoice you get? Or better to have the choice?

As for packages meaning people are looked after, that's true. But packages don't equal travel agents – they're easily bookable online. Recently did this for a skiing hol and was very glad I had when the plane was diverted to another country on the outbound. If I'd booked each component individually I'd have been stuffed.