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Using A Travel Agent
The Facts and Perceptions
Story courtesy of South Coast Magazine

Using A Travel Agent The Facts and Perceptions South Coast Magazine Question & Answer A travel agent gives personal service, just like you get regularly from your hairdresser, doctor, lawyer, mechanic, etc. Once you find one that provides the service you want and need, it is a lasting relationship.

By using a travel agent, you can go on vacation and understand exactly what you're getting.

It's not worth saving $20 and coming back disappointed because you didn't get what you were expecting - something heard all the time.

Many times a travel agent can get things less expensive due to the many resources they have at their fingertips.

South Coast Magazine talked to George Aballi, who belongs to an organization called the NEST (Network of Entrepreneurs Selling Travel). There are over 300 home-based travel agents and they have relationships with the major suppliers. The NEST offers these travel agents a wide variety of preferred suppliers, including cruise lines, tour operators, hotels and resorts.

A travel agent can match up travelers with the vacation that is right for them. He and his staff build a relationship with their clients, they learn their interests and lifestyles, as well as their dispositions.

They share the experience and knowledge they accumulate about a variety of travel topics, from where to eat, where to shop, and what to pack. There are 10 well-traveled agents in Aballi's office, and chances are that wherever your destination is, they have been there.

South Coast Magazine:
Why should you pay a travel agent?

Connection To Cruise:
You don't! The travel industry pays travel agents for their services. You do not pay extra for a travel package if you use a travel agent. The hotels, rental car companies, tour operators, and cruise lines pay travel agents a commission on the sale. This is not an additional amount you have to pay. It is in the same price as if you booked it with the company yourself, and you then have a free personal travel consultant.

Even if you have been to the land destination or cruise ship before and know exactly what room or cabin you want to stay in, it's better for you to call us and have us book it in case there is a problem. Again, there is no fee for our services.

South Coast Magazine:
What is the biggest challenge of being a travel agent?

Connection To Cruise:
The internet. It has built a perception that "going online" will save you money. The truth is there are many companies who will ONLY deal with travel agents. If you have problems arise, you can be in trouble. Many people have purchased vacation packages over the internet and don't even know exactly what they have purchased. What do you do when you have name changes, no insurance, medical problems just weeks before you leave? The travel agent serves as the consumer's advocate in the event something inadvertently goes wrong.

Cruise companies and land destinations don't bite the hand that feeds them. We (travel agents) place all our customers with them, and we do all the work. They appreciate that. It's not in their best interest to offer cheaper fares to the general public. As an example, 90 percent of everyone on a cruise ship has booked through a travel agent. In fact, when you are placed on "hold" calling a major cruise line, their message recommends using a travel agent.

Our role as a travel agent is beneficial to both the travel industry and our customers. We add to the client's experience by sending a bottle of wine, a gift, provide a special land package, a specific escort, or other customer amenities. Our goal as YOUR personalized agent is to provide a service beyond belief and customize your vacation just for YOU.

South Coast Magazine:
It's unusual to see a travel agent at the Orange County Market Place (swap meet).

Connection To Cruise:
Yes, it is. We are home-based travel agents, and saw a tremendous opportunity to be out in front of so many people that we decided to come out and try it. There are over 1000 vendors selling everything from warm roasted peanuts to beautiful exotic cars and they average 10,000 people a day coming to visit.

South Coast Magazine:
Are you able to book vacations from there?

Connection To Cruise:
Yes, we have a laptop computer with internet access to live inventory and real time prices right there. We also have a short questionnaire that visitors fill out requesting quotes for their vacations.

South Coast Magazine:
Do you sell only cruises?

Connection To Cruise:
No, we are travel agents. We sell all vacations, land and sea.

South Coast Magazine:
How long have you been coming to the Orange County Market Place?

Connection To Cruise:
About three years now, and I'm always at the same location # E-168. We now have many repeat customers that we met when we first started.

South Coast Magazine:
How did you get into the travel business?

Connection To Cruise:
My background is and has always been in customer service and sales. I owned two very successful magazines, and I sold advertising to realtors who advertised their homes for sale for over 20 years. My wife, Marlys, has been a travel agent for 28 years, and when I sold the magazines it was a natural thing for me to partner with her and build upon her already successful travel agency.

South Coast Magazine:
Do you get to travel often?

Connection To Cruise:
Yes we are very fortunate. I have been on 49 cruises and have my 50th scheduled this September - a 14-night to Europe. This is a great advantage to our customers. I have sailed on most categories of ships, so it helps matching the customer to the ship and itinerary.

Connection to Cruise



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