Are Travel Agencies a Scam?

Are Travel Agencies a Scam?

Are travel agencies a scam?

 Let me begin by saying that I do not believe that travel agencies are scams but there are some things that make me question the industry that I will be covering in this episode.

First off,  I do no think that being a travel agent is not a bad thing or you who is listening or reading this, if you’re a travel agent, is doing anything wrong.

I’m sharing research and news that is already out there and adding what I have realized as someone who is very involved in the tourism industry and runs a global network of travel coaches and professionals.

With that said, I also understand and agree that there are times when travel agents are definitely helpful. For example, planning special trips like bigger family vacations, honeymoons, weddings, special events, etc. and also I know that travel agents have access to special deals and discounts.

I totally get it. There are the perks.

But an industry like tourism that tells people that they can become an expert with little to no experience makes me question everything around their sales strategies.  

I mean, what industry out there is more personal than the tourism industry?  You don’t need to travel to over 84 countries like myself but you should have some built up passion, skills, and experience in traveling in order to understand just how powerful travel can be on our mind, body, and souls.

I know that this will ruffle many people’s feathers

You have worked so hard for so long in an industry that you love but the travel career industry has told you that this is the ONLY career that you could have. If you love travel, you must be a travel agent and plan and book trips.

But that’s not the case, at least not anymore.


The travel agent industry played a big role in creating many of the stigmas that exist around travel.

 There, I said it.

 For example:

Travel is too expensive

Travel is complicated

Traveling is unsafe if you plan it on your own

Any travel business that promotes online must be an MLM or a scam

Host agencies don’t really care about you

 I remember talking to a friend years ago who knew that I loved to travel.  One day, she said “Sahara, I don’t even want to tell you how much we paid for our Italy vacation”. When I finally got it out of her, she replied “$20,000 for 2 weeks”.  I just about died.  

I personally can spend about $10,000 in 6 months backpacking the globe and yes, I completely understand that my budget backpacking style isn’t up the same “standards” or “luxury” (which I beg to differ sometimes), than what a $20K trip may involve but, come on!?  

Her trip not only cost a lot but there were also so many problems that she herself had to resolve and get involved with pre, during, and post trip, including continuous charges on her credit card by the agent.  Now, I know that this isn’t always the case but $20,000 for a mediocre trip to Italy for 2 weeks is a bit insane. 

The travel agent industry has also helped craft the idea that travel is a luxury or an experience that can happen only once or twice a year.  This stems from the fact that it will take a big bite out of most people’s budget.  When people turn to travel experts to take full control over their trips, they tend to get options of all of the add-ons that agents make commission off of as well.

There’s also the mentality that travel is far too complicated to do on your own without an expert or it leads to an unsafe experience. Staying in all-inclusive resorts, going on organized tours, having private drivers, and staying at fancy hotels with 5-star dining is the smartest way to travel.  Because why? The world is that unsafe? 

If you believe that travel is beneficial to people’s wellbeing and lifestyles, shouldn’t you be embracing the mentality that aspects of travel like local culture, community, people, places, traditions, food, and other ways of living are the best ways to get the transformative and meaningful travel experiences that people are craving in the first place?

The travel agent industry has contributed to the implication that all travel-related businesses or promotions must be MLM (multi-level marketing) or trying to recruit people.  I can’t tell you how often I see this happening or hear people assume that someone who runs a travel business is trying to do this.  I get it, everyone wants to “travel the world and get paid for it”.

Lastly, when I say that host agencies don’t really care about, I mean that their main goal is to grow a successful team of agents that book a lot of high-ticket trips so that THEY make money.  Oh yea, they like what you make your commission too.

Step it up- people can book on their own

Travel agents need to step it up.

Historically, travel agents stemmed from the lack of any other way for people to plan and book trips. Before the internet. But now, there are more resources, blogs, apps, and the sharing community, available than ever before and they continue to multiply by the day. People can plan and book their own trips easier and for less.

Remember, the pandemic amplified people’s desire to travel farther and more often, meaning that they will need to make their dollar stretch so if they are going to hire a travel professional, it better be for a really good purpose.

Stop Pigeon-holing Clients

If you wanted to sell travel, you had to “find your niche”. That meant that you had to decide if you wanted to sell a certain brand like Disney or Sandals, or you sold only luxury trips or group trips or family travel or to a certain demographic, and on and on.

That mentality around selling travel is so old-school. It is implying that only a certain demographic or type of person would be interested in a specific experience. But we all know that isn’t the case.  You cannot group people together and assume that they their demographics, income level, age, or travel style determines the overall outcome, feelings, or transformations that they are in search of on a trip.

The problem is that you aren’t selling travel nor are you selling experiences. You are selling an outcome, a transformation, a solution, a change, or a feeling.  That is why people truly want to “get away”. They are seeking something.  It’s up to you as the travel expert to help them reach that transformation or feeling based on the types of experiences that they need to have during their trip.

But the travel industry doesn’t tell you this. It tells you to sell, sell, sell. Book, book, book.

Stop taking full control

I get that travel agents were a great option for travelers to be able to travel safely around Covid-related restrictions, regulations, and information.  I also understand that a goal for many agents is to provide “a seamless” travel experience for people which entails them taking full control over the planning and booking process.

But did you know that

The anticipation can increase happiness and emotional equilibrium          

Planning is an easy way to dramatically boost personal happiness. Planners are happier than non-planners in personal relationships, their job, their company, physical health and well-being, and happier with how they spend their paid time off.

A study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation.

What should you do then?

Like I said before, there is nothing wrong with being a travel agent or a travel advisor or a travel curator or a travel designer, or any other title that focuses solely on planning and booking trips but, I’d highly recommend that if you want to succeed in your travel business and struggle less, 

attract clients versus chase them, stand out in an overly-saturated industry, and have a business that aligns with your heart and soul, you should be changing your mindset and breaking down the boxes that the travel agent industry constructed for so long.  It’s a new day and age. Travel has changed. People have changed. 

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