How do you protect yourself from bad travel agents? We typically only talk about really good or excellent travel agents on this blog. But recently I was quoted by a Travel Agent magazine in response to question about a really bad travel agent.
Know who your supplier and travel agent are before you book
In this case, a travel agent out of Massachusetts formed his own river cruise company and then transferred money from the company to his own person account. This left the company unable to cover costs and subsequently went bankrupt. According to the story, "The court said that about 400 customers were left without the river cruises they had booked, after paying Tom Harper Cruises nearly $2.9 million."
So how to protect yourself?
Always book your trip with a reputable supplier.
My comment to the reporter was that I use the Allianz Insurance to double check any supplier that I'm not personally familiar with. I figure if a major insurance company won't insure the supplier, I'm certainly not going to use them. The insurance companies look at the financial viability of companies as part of their risk assessment.
Make sure you trust your travel agent.
Read reviews from others. Question them on their history. Ask about policies like never taking personal checks, using insurance and dealing with new suppliers. Ask if they are incorporated or have a legal entity (like an LLC) and if they have errors and omissions insurance. These are all signs of good agents.
Use an agent affiliated with a large consortium.
In our case, we use Avoya. (www.avoya.com) These are highly reputable individuals that have been in the travel business for decades. They have tremendous clout and respect across the industry and require all affiliated agents to be professional and have integrity. Avoya also screens suppliers and only works with those that they know will pay.
Attributes of really good travel agents
Of course even if a travel agent isn't fraudulent, it doesn't mean that they are good. Look for agents that are objective, look about for your interests instead of their own, have experience in your type of travel, are interested in developing a relationship with you (ie: you should never feel like you are just a transaction), specialize with the supplier of your choice, have excellent reviews, offer a full range of services (cruise, pre and post cruise, excursions, insurance, advice, escorted as well as independent tours), have been in business a long time and are experts.
We encourage you to browse through these blogs to learn about each of these attributes. Its one thing to protect yourself against bad suppliers and travel agents. But it's another thing to work with a really good travel agent. It can make the difference between no vacation and an experience of a lifetime.