Marisa Thalberg doesn’t know where she’s traveling in 2023, but she knows how to get there: with the help of a travel advisor.
A travel professional gives her “peace of mind” in an increasingly unpredictable world, says Thalberg, a marketing manager from Charlotte, NC. When working with an agent, she adds, “I know she wants to maximize my hard-earned leisure travel.”
This year, we could all use a little peace of mind.
Just when we think we’ve seen the last of the holiday meltdowns, the FAA’s computers flash and freeze flights across the country for hours. And just when we think the war in Ukraine is coming to an end, another horrific missile attack sends shockwaves through anyone planning a trip to Europe.
“Travel continues to be complex,” says Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion Travel Group. “A travel advisor will be just as valuable in 2023 by providing the traveler with expert advice before, during and after the trip.”
However, travel advisors are not for everyone. If you need a quick domestic flight ticket or a motel along the way, it can be safe to skip an advisor and save the booking fees, which can be significant. But if you’re planning a more complicated trip—a safari in Kenya, an Antarctic cruise, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land—you need a pro. Now more than ever.
But what’s the latest on travel professionals in 2023?
- They are almost indestructible. Travel advisors working today have been through the mill, as my grandmother would say. That includes 9/11, brutal agency commission cuts, the online travel revolution and the pandemic.
- They have learned new tricks and developed new specialties.
- Travel advisors customize everything these days – transport, accommodation and activities. They do better with technology.
- They’ve taken their travel expertise to the next level, learning about countries, cities and even neighborhoods. Google can’t compete with that.
- Travel advisors are also getting better and better, and their educational journey continues in 2023.
So what does that mean for your next trip? Let’s take a closer look.
A travel “holiday consigliere” who goes the extra mile
Thalberg hired Kim-Marie Galloway, a “vacation consigliere” with Luxury Travel Mom, an affiliate of Embark Beyond. Galloway says Thalberg was looking for an adviser who could offer more than just booking a plane ticket or hotel room.
“She wanted someone who knows what she and her family need and goes the extra mile to make sure they have everything — the right insurance, a proper packing list, access to last-minute reservations,” she says.
Thalberg also needed someone who could collaborate on future travel plans. “I wanted to combine my own desire and ability to do the research with the expertise of an experienced travel consultant,” she says.
Travel advisors are ready for any crisis
If you haven’t planned a trip in a while, you’ll love the skills of the best travel advisors.
“One of the biggest improvements across the board is that we’re entering our fourth calendar year of travel planning with COVID-19 still in the picture,” explains Claire Riley, owner of Duende Travels in La Jolla, California. minute travel changes, work with travel insurance companies and handling travelers’ anxiety about upcoming trips in a time of covid have been a large part of the job in recent years. And with that experience comes a lot of new knowledge that I believe makes the industry better as a whole.”
Travel advisors are more skilled in 2023
Remember that travel advisors have survived the lockdowns and travel bans. What did they do in their free time? Well, after helping their customers get their refunds, some of them went back to school to become even better at their craft.
“They concentrated on learning through training certifications,” says Andrew Garnett, CEO of Special Needs Group, a medical equipment supplier. “So their experience and newly acquired knowledge makes them better equipped to help travelers achieve their dream trip with the added safety net of knowing what to do if things go wrong during the trip.”
They can offer next-level personalization
“Travel advisors will offer more curated and personalized trips to their customers than ever before by 2023,” Shane Mahoney, CEO of Lugo’s Travel. He says there are new programs that allow advisers to know more about their clients and their interests and goals when it comes to travel.
“For example, we have very sophisticated software that can generate travel itineraries in less than five minutes,” he says. “These itineraries are not just generic documents showing typical tourist attractions, but rather take into account the interests and goals of each client and generate a highly personalized and curated itinerary.”
That kind of deep personalization is something a website can’t do—at least not yet.
Travel professionals are “hyperlocalized”
Travel advisors have always specialized. But in 2023 they will take it to a whole new level, say experts.
Manny Salorio, who runs a travel platform called Go Ask a Local, offers an example of “hyperlocalization.”
“When you want to plan a trip to Greece, you want to get in touch with Athens-based travel consultant Luca Dolfino who has been planning island hopping vacations for a decade,” says Salorio. “If you’re going to Peru, take advantage of Nicholas Cino’s 12 years of experience planning and designing adventures across Peru. In Iceland, your travel planner will be Andrés Helguson, a travel consultant based in rural Reykjavik who has spent nearly two decades as both agent and driver-guide.”
This trend is playing out across the industry. Some travel advisors and agents specialize in not just one country but a single city. and sometimes even a small neighborhood in a city. If you’re headed to that location, you’ll benefit from their help.
Travel advisors will continue to evolve in 2023
That’s the assessment of Kenroy Herbert, founder of Leviticus Lifestyle & Travel, a concierge brand specializing in the rental of luxury villas, jets, yachts and private islands. He says the journey from travel agents, which were focused on transactions, to professional advisors advising on your next holiday is accelerating this year.
“They get to know clients on a deeper level and the relationship stems from that of an agent but also a trusted friend,” he says.
How to find a travel advisor in 2023
So how do you find a travel advisor who is skill building, highly specialized and super responsive to your travel needs?
- Ask for a referral from a friend, family member or colleague who already works with a travel advisor. Check the advisor’s online reviews and testimonials and ask for references.
- Make sure your travel advisor has a strong knowledge of the destinations and types of travel you are interested in. It is reasonable to expect an itinerary with detailed information and recommendations based on the agent’s own experiences and research.
- Look for membership in a professional association, such as the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) or the Institute of Certified Travel Agents (ICTA). Both of these organizations have high standards for their members and can provide extra resources to the counsellor.
Will travel advisors finally arrive in 2023?
I remember having a heated discussion with travel agents two decades ago (that’s what they called themselves then) about going beyond transactions and becoming true experts in their field. The agents said the system worked just fine, but 20 years later I think the pros have won the argument.
But these pros can be expensive. Advisor fees typically range from $25 to book a simple plane ticket to more than $500 to plan an elaborate international trip. Fees can be a flat rate or a percentage of the total cost of the trip, and are typically assessed for services such as booking flights, hotels and car rentals, as well as creating custom itineraries and providing general travel planning advice.
Travel advisors may also charge additional fees for services such as passport and visa assistance, travel insurance and emergency travel assistance.
Many travel professionals also charge a commission, which can offset the cost of a fee. Always ask about the finances of a travel transaction for you start ordering.
Travel agents – sorry, advisors – have become the professionals they were always meant to be, and perhaps 2023 is the year they arrive. Travelers like us will be the beneficiaries.