Stories by Louis Ibah
Like many other internet businesses enjoying a boom in patronage, online sites selling various air tickets, hotels and other travel services have been increasing in popularity among Nigerians in recent years.
Indeed in so many quarters, there is this believe that the introduction of online booking of airfares and their effectiveness in attending to passenger needs have rendered a lot of travel agencies redundant. But amid such claims, one still finds some cases where passengers are undecided whether to purchase their tickets online or opt for a registered travel agent.
Consider the story of Patrick Asong, a Nigerian who describes himself as IT savvy.
“I had successfully booked for John who is my first Cousin the cheapest flight I could get for his trip to Sydney where he had been offered an admission to pursue a post-graduate degree, and when I asked him if we could proceed to make payment online he said I should jettison the idea,” said Asong.
“And the excuse he gave me was that he had been advised by friends that for a first time traveler out of Nigeria, it was a very big risk booking and paying for a ticket online as it is only a travel agent that can assist if anything goes wrong in the two days journey to Australia which will see the airline stopping over in Bangkok, Thailand.”
It is the occurrence of this type of incident that Estravel Agent has listed some of the merits and demerits associated with booking airfares online or using a travel agent, especially on an international flight.
Travel agents vs online
The biggest advantage of an online platform is the lower price that is achieved thanks to the low costs of maintaining a portal. Seasoned travellers also value the options offered by the online portals such as a function to personally compare prices by the various airlines plying that route , read the opinions of other travellers and make a reservation quickly.
The strongest minus of an online reservation business is the vast amount of information, in which a less experienced client can get lost. On many online portals there is no simple way to change travel plans or correct them if something goes wrong with a reservation. There abound several instances of passengers that do not know where to get help if they have problems with travel services purchased from foreign online portals.
The biggest advantage of a traditional travel agency is the convenience and saving of time: instead of hours spent on searching for information on your own on an online portal, a professional travel consultant will offer the best travel solutions and help to find the right piece of information from his or her large array of information. A travel agent not only assists during the time of reserving a trip and the trip itself, but also provides help and support in the event of potential problems.
The demerit of a traditional travel agency is that some of them may add their service charge to the fare and this may increase the cost of the ticket. However, this is not always the case because an experienced travel agent has a relationship with so many airlines. Travel agents often have access to special discount codes and promotions being done by airlines and they are often able to find cheap travel options that online portals do not automatically offer.
Less stressful trips
When booking a vacation, wedding or honeymoon or honeymoon destination, the last thing such a traveler should have to do is worry.
“It is a special memory in your lifetime that should only result in a pleasant experience all the way through. A travel agent is vital in planning these special memories as they take the worry off of you and let you focus solely on the exciting events to come and what you shall pack,” said Jamie Mussolini, founder and president of Beachfronts Travel LLC in Westchester, New York.
Travel agents would also design their services to their clients’ individual needs. You can sit down and have a chat with them on what you want.. Be it a cheap hotel, or a taxi to pick you up from the airport and drop you at the hotel or to take you around the city you are visiting or the tourists sites that you want to visit.
They’re there 24/7
Booking an airfare through a known r registered travel agent minimises the chances of getting duped. In Nigeria, the travel agency business is registered and also regulated by the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA). It is therefore very easy to verify those that are legitimate and those that are fraudulent. Travel agents are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They’re there with you throughout the booking process and follow up afterward. On the other hand, contacting an online customer service line often means wading through a chain of people and they can be very impatient too.
If you were to book your air ticket and plan your travel or tours independently by using an online travel portal, you must be very sure that you are experiences or a seasoned traveller who is ready to accept higher risks for lower price. This implies that you can represent your own interests effectively and that you also have a good command of the languages of the countries that you intend to visit. And you also know how to plan a simple trip from one point to another that does not require using different airlines and means of transport.
But it is however recommended that you use a traditional travel agency if: you are a client who lacks travel experience and may need advice and help in their mother tongue during the trip; you plan a more complex trip involving various means of transport or airlines where you may experience unexpected problems; and where you prefer comfort and security while travelling over a little saving. There are various instances where Nigerian passengers are stranded or abandoned in European, Asian or American countries due to flight cancellations by foreign airlines and only those passengers who were booked by travel agents were being rebooked for the next available flight or transferred to another airline for the continuation of their journey.
In such instances, such passengers were the beneficiaries of the speedy intervention of the travel agents who have the obligation of fighting for the wellbeing of their clients, a right that the airlines know and also strive to respect so as not to lose patronage from the travel agents.