I like women’s magazines and read them (one happy reason to see the dentist). My colleagues at SITA World Tours pointed out an article in Woman’s Day which niggled.

The article is “9 Things Travel Agents Won’t Tell You” by Anne Roderique-Jones. Every consumer-driven article is good for the public. But this one had so many misinterpretations, it screamed for a response. The author faults agents for being commission-based, for not going everywhere they sell, for hawking un-needed insurance, etc. Here is my response for what it takes. Please share this with your travel agent and tell her/him about our company.

Sent to Susan Spencer, Editor in Chief of Woman’s Day:

Everyone likes a snappy headline; no one benefits from one-sided discussions, even if they make you think as did “9 Things Travel Agents Won’t Tell You” by Anne Roderique-Jones in Woman’s Day.

What Ms. Roderique-Jones omits to say is as insightful as what she does say. Yes, travel agents receive a commission. Here are more facts. The average age of agents in the US is 55+ (Source: Travel Agent Central et al.) which translates into years of selling (at a commission) to presumably happy repeat customers. The travel industry compensation system is similar to insurance and financial advisory services. We also choose those advisors for experience and honesty, not for their compensation arrangement.

Her second point is that agents have not visited every place they sell. Agents have many resources for information and reputation: informal via colleagues and formal with continual training, reading and online sources. Ms. Roderique-Jones might have benefited from attending an ASTA or SKAL meeting to hear the information being exchanged. Regarding FAM trips, it is this writer’s experience that agents who take too many FAMs are in their jobs for the fun not for the client.

A word about travel insurance. It just does not increase the price of the commission; the commission is based on the actual trip, age of the client, tour operator, etc. However, she is right that consumers should stay informed. Today especially this is best done with an insurance professional not a credit card agent. Note agents who sell travel insurance must be licensed in each state and receive continual training also. There are new insurance definitions of ‘covered family’, of ‘married’, of ‘security evacuation’, of ‘closest acceptable medical facility’, of ‘job related’ coverage, of ‘travel delay’.

A final note on the article: Groupon, Travelzoo, and others she mentioned also operate on implied commissions. If they don’t, call your commission-based stockbroker today and sell their stock.