When planning a backpacking and couchsurfing trip through Europe, my itinerary was a few sheets of paper with the contact info and addresses of my hosts. The last option I would have considered was booking a travel agent. So I was shocked when I discovered that between February 2013 and February 2014, 28% of Millennials used a travel agent!
The term “travel agent” recalls the Mad Men 50s era, when companies were boys clubs and you couldn’t go anywhere without Tiffany from the agency planning every step of the way. But with the advent of sites like TripAdvisor, Student Universe or Expedia, the idea of hiring somebody to plan your trip seems excessive or extravagant.
Extravagant, however, may be a more apt descriptor then you think. An MMGY study showed that last year 17 percent of Americans who made $125,000+ per year booked one or more trips with an agent. The percentage increased to 24 for Americans making $250,000+.
So the rich are using this old mode of travel – who else? Well apparently the big four groups that use travel agents are Millennials, Baby Boomers and corporate travelers. They usually book three kinds of trips: ocean cruises, all-inclusive vacations, and luxury travel. The age brackets, according to the MMGYY study, divided like this for Americans: 28% of Millennials, 15% of those aged 36-49, 13% of those 50-68 and 21% of those aged 69 or older used a travel agent between February 2013 and February 2014.
While the numbers are great if you’re a stats geek like me, it still doesn’t answer the true question – why? Because unlike the internet, travel agents can make sure you’ll have the trip of a lifetime. Baby Boomers especially go to travel agents to make sure their trip goes smoothly in the face of travel delays, lost luggage, or any potential trip-ruining mishaps. The same assurance is important for business travelers, where little mistakes like missing a connecting flight can have monetary consequences. While it’s gotten easier to book your own trips, that doesn’t necessarily make you an expert. That’s where the travel agent steps in.