You have arrived!
After years of hard work, responsibility and planning, your sacrifices are about to pay off; you have earned your freedom.
You begin scouring the Internet with plans to book your own adventure. After all, you’ve successfully planned and managed your own life. You’ve planned your retirement/semi retirement; of course you can do this. You spend hours viewing photos of resorts, cruise packages and condos.
Before you click “check out” and rely on photos of accommodation in far away lands, online testimonials from people who may or may not be real, and the word of a faceless stranger eager for your credit card number, you may want to consider visiting your local travel agency first.
Why? Like any licensed professional service within BC, travel agencies have a code of conduct they must comply with. Any business providing travel services in BC must be licensed under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. As part of this compliance they are required to contribute into the Travel Assurance Fund which you as a consumer may be eligible to claim from should you not receive the travel services you contracted.
Furthermore, a travel agent is passionate about travel – they have made a career out of their passion – and very often have first-hand knowledge of your dream location, unlike the faceless being cocooned behind a computer somewhere in the northern hemisphere and as a trained professional they know what questions to ask to ensure the type of travel experience you are seeking.
There are benefits to this computer age and agencies are wired into them with computer systems that are real time; they have up-to-date information and access to promotions and deals that they can provide to their clients.
If you run into trouble on your trip, an agent is there to help you. You are not a faceless credit card number, you are a client, a member of their community, and like any professional they want your future business and a good agent will strive for excellence in customer service. In most cases they can assist you in an emergency, direct you to the services you need and offer support.
Before booking your trip, be sure to do your research. As a consumer it is your responsibility to educate yourself. Here are some tips to finding a good travel agent:
Ask for recommendations from friends, family and business associates
Be certain you are dealing with a licensed travel agency that is in compliance with BC Consumer Law, and if booking online, confirm exactly who you are dealing with. Will BC Consumer Law protect you?
Check with the Better Business Bureau in your area and the city in which this agency does business.
If in doubt, contact Consumer Protection BC to determine whether a company has a valid BC licence or to report any concerns with respect to the conduct of an agent.
And most importantly, remember, buyer beware. If a travel offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
You have arrived!