What is the role of travel consultant - Gregory Howell - and how has it changed?

Travel consultants work very hard on behalf of their client. The traditional role of a travel consultant is to make the process of going on a trip - from the initial planning to post-trip evaluation - a seamless and enjoyable experience. This has not changed. The role of travel consultant as "order taker" has changed with the advent of the Internet. Travel consultants who traditionally spent time booking airline tickets and searching for affordable hotel and car rates, have now been replaced by brilliant online booking services like Kayak.com. What took hours and often a team of travel consultants to accomplish can now be done in a matter or seconds by the traveler with just a few clicks. This is a good thing and something that has enabled me to develop new and exciting alternative platforms for travel procurement. Now that anchor components of a travel program like the air, car, and hotel reservations can be done quickly and easily, my focus as a consultant is on the core content of the travel program. My strength has been and always will be my ability to bring the right players to the program whether that be a special guest lecturer, noted historian, world leader or gourmet chef. 

The job of a travel consultant has grown and adapted to reflect the changes within the travel industry and the difference in the way people think about travel. I recognize that consumers today have done their homework with a gold star and are more knowledgeable about what they want. I enjoy working with savvy travelers who demand excellence at the best price possible. Clients who turn to me desire an in-depth, personal approach and want the advice and expertise of a professional. My travel consulting approach is to turn information in action by empowering my clients to make better decisions regarding their travel purchases. This is why I...

  • Review travel product offerings;
  • Investigate and evaluate competitive players;
  • Stay abreast and analyze the most current and timely values and promotions in travel;
  • Clarify the fine print, such as cancellation penalties and restrictions;
  • Make recommendations on travel options;
  • Simplify the research and subsequent transaction(s);
  • Enhance the trip with value-added benefits and amenities;
  • Use my clout to negotiate the best possible net/net pricing in seemingly impossible situations; and
  • Get problems resolved before they happen.
Is Gregory Howell a Seller of Travel?

No. I am not a Seller of Travel. I am a Seller of Ideas. When the airlines ceased paying commissions in the mid-1990s for selling their product to our mutual clients, I realized quickly that my value as a consultant was no longer in providing these basic travel components, but rather in the ideas necessary to make the journey a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  

I accept no payments from clients for any travel services rendered. I also accept no commissions from travel suppliers. I bill my clients for the time necessary to create the ideal travel experience or offer premium content information through paid membership at www.gregoryhowell.com. I work directly and closely with my clients' own travel agents and major tour operators on behalf of their large groups. I enjoy this neutrality as it enables me to create the best possible product for the travel consumer. I especially enjoy the art of negotiation and by not receiving commissions, I am able to secure the best possible value. My clients enjoy receiving my line item spreadsheets with every travel cost explained in detail. In this age of cost cutting and careful budget tightrope, it is a win-win situation for both the traveler and the supplier. After over 30 years in the travel industry, I earn my living through the valuable information I provide. 

How is the Internet affecting the travel industry?

The Internet more than any other recent development has transformed the travel industry forever. It helps educate the consumer by providing vast amounts of information about destinations and different travel options. The problem is that there is too much information and you really need a human being with extensive travel experience on the ground (or air and sea)  to make sense of this plethora of data. I find that the human element is missing in this whole process and this is where new opportunities exist in the travel industry today. The Internet and its associated technologies now empower individuals at the local level to start a blog and/or website in order reach out to millions who are eager to learn more. Travel is about community and through my consulting website I envision fostering collaboration in the travel planning process. 

What are the benefits of using a Travel Consultant compared to the Internet?

The internet is a powerful tool and travelers must be aware that it also carries major responsibilities. It can increase the scope and reach of a traveler's efforts and allow a person to check hundreds of options or research destinations in depth. But to make the Internet work effectively, a person has to understand where to look and what questions to ask, otherwise hours can be wasted surfing the Web and ultimately produce unsatisfactory results. This is where Gregory Howell and a paid membership at gregoryhowell.com can make a difference.

Will the Internet replace the need for Travel Consultants? 

There are some things technology cannot replicate, and the human touch is one of them. The Internet is a valuable resource, but it cannot replace the expertise, guidance and personal service of a travel consultant. At a time when people are overwhelmed at home and at work, a travel consultant is a valuable ally  ts have all of the information at their fingertips, saving valuable hours of surfing on the Web. Agents also can offer insider tips generally based on personal experience.

On average what do Travel Consultants charge for their fees? 

Since 1998 the number of travel consultants charging service fees on one of more product line has increased from 64 percent  to more than 90 percent in 2008. The most common fee charged is a service fee for issuing an airline ticket. According to ASTA, travel consultants charge on average $37.56 for providing this service. Some charge fees for other services such as trip research, train, car rental and hotel-only reservations, cruise and tour bookings. Over the past year I have looked at the fees charged by travel experts in their respective niche markets and the fees ranged from $100 to $1000 USD per booking. 

What percentage of airline tickets, rental cars, cruises and hotel rooms are sold by Travel Consultants?

Travel consultants sell:

85 percent of cruises
70 percent of all tours and packages
50 percent of all airline tickets
30 percent of all hotels
25 percent of all car rentals

Source: 2008 PhoCusWright Travel Agency Distribution Landscape Report

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