|by Danielle Lipp||Before the Trip, Online Travel Agencies||86|
With all of the recent advances in online booking (and new travel websites popping up seemingly every day), it wasn't a stretch to speculate that travel agents might eventually become obsolete.
But a new study from Forrester Research shows that agents shouldn't throw in the towel just yet.
In the study, 28 percent of U.S.-based leisure travelers who booked their trips online in the first three months of this year said they'd be interested in going to a good traditional travel agent, up from 23 percent in 2008. That falls in line with previous Forrester findings that 46 percent of U.S. leisure travelers enjoyed using the Internet to book travel in 2009, down from 53 percent in 2007.
The explanation for the results: With the multitude of online booking options available to them, consumers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the complexity of the process, as well as with how difficult it can be to customize their itineraries to fit their needs (not to mention the lack of a personal advocate in the case that something goes wrong). It's easy to see the value in enlisting a qualified agent for a complicated trip. Our recent Test Lab article on using tripit.com, a reservation-tracking/itinerary consolidating site, is a perfect example: The more involved our writer's itinerary was, the less valuable and less helpful he found the (albeit free) online service.
There are also resources out there that combine elements of both online and traditional agencies: Websites like Zicasso and Tripology (which was acquired by Rand McNally earlier this year) let you submit the details of the vacation you want to take, and then up to three vetted travel specialists come back to you with customized itineraries to choose from. (Tripology also has some great info on why to use a travel agent and how to choose a good one.)
We want to hear from you: Have you used a travel agent in the past year?
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