Who says travel agents will go extinct
Yes, online travel companies—Orbitz, Expedia, Hotwire, Priceline, and hundreds of others—offer convenience to travelers: you can make reservations, buy tickets, and print boarding passes right at home. But are these Internet travel agents going to completely replace the physical, neighborhood travel agency with a glass storefront and glossy travel posters plastered on the walls? Not in the near future and especially not when your itinerary involves multiple stopovers and sophisticated decisions about economical days to fly and multiple airlines to use, for the best fare. At least that has been our experience. When it was decided that we will go Down Under during the summer, I called my friend Hanif Koya and asked him where he buys his ticket from when he needs to visit Fiji. He recommended Kamal of the Pathfinder Travel in Hayward (510-247-0670) for all our South Pacific travel needs. Kamal is a much sought-after travel agent—we later found out why. He took down our dates—while being constantly vexed by other callers—and promised to call us back. Can he beat the Internet prices? How can he beat super-smart computers that allegedly are the backbones of the online travel agencies? We kept checking Vayama and other web sites for the kind of multi-stopovers tickets we were interested in. By then we had developed a good understanding of the current fares. But when Kamal responded, we were genuinely surprised. He was giving us a very good deal. Was it for real? We had never done business with Pathfinder before. Should we trust them? The travel agency was a good friend’s recommendation, and we were going to use a credit card to purchase the tickets…it was not a huge risk. We made the plunge and bought the tickets from Kamal. And we are glad we did that. Kamal’s excellent service did not stop at giving us great value airline tickets. He went ahead and processed our Aussie visas, free of cost. [According to the Australian Immigration-- https://www.eta.immi.gov.au/ETAS3/etas--the visa is $20/person] How did Kamal do it without charging us anything? Do travel agents get this service free? For sure, we were not going to get this from the online travel companies. Kamal thought we will be charged $15/person when we leave New Zealand—but over a month later, on leaving Auckland, we did not even have to pay that amount. Next time when we go to another South Pacific destination—Samoa, Cook Islands, Bora Bora, Tahiti—we will definitely use Kamal’s help.