Should Travel Agencies Know About or Just Sell Their Trips?

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Dec 18, 2014
Question: After our travel company went out of business (ABC Tours), my husband and I searched for another company with whom to arrange our vacations. As has been our approach, we decide what kind of vacation we want to take, we do some research, and then I call with my two questions: is there room and is this trip appropriate for someone who is terrified of heights. After our trip with Gate 1 Travel, a trip on which I was unable to participate in many of the activities because of my fear of heights, I am wondering whether travel agencies should know something about the trips they offer.
Gate 1 was offering several hundred dollars off to register for trips before April 30th. I called and asked my two questions about a week or so before the cut-off date. There was room on the trip, and the agent said she would call me back to let me know if the trip was good for someone who was afraid of heights. So we could benefit from the discount, I called the agent back three or four days later since I had not heard from her. She said she did her research and found that I would be fine on the trip.
When I returned home, I contacted Gate 1 and shared the fact that the agent had misinformed me. I spent a lot of time on this trip either staying on or close to the bus or staying back in the hotel/haciendas because the hikes and activities involved heights that would terrify anyone who has a fear of them. Gate 1's email response, "While you did ask _________ (name of agent) about heights on the tour, no one can truly understand what triggers your distress, except you. What triggers my fear of heights is...heights. I made that clear from the start. After the first email from Gate 1, I began to cultivate a fear of travel agents. We exchanged several emails, each time hearing from another Gate 1 employee who was slightly higher on the Gate 1 employee chain. Never calling to ask me the details of my concern, a Gate 1 representative of the company president emailed me with a report on her research of what I could and could not do and said that the original customer service person probably confused "altitude" and "fear of heights". Frustrated and disappointed with the lack of respect I was being shown - pick up the phone and call me if you want to know the details - I am writing to ask ... am I expecting too much from a travel agency that they should know about their trips and care about their travelers?!!
Oct 1, 2014
Find out more personally who these agents are so you can tell whether they are competent enough to answer your questions.
Have they actually been on the trips or tours they sell? Or are they reading from a brochure?
The travel industry is huge and it is impossible to be an expert in everything.


Anne, one thing you need to understand about any tour your book, things can change and substitutions can be made, so not all details can be 100% known or guaranteed. Also, the agents at Gate1 are not travel agents, they are reservation agents. No, they have not been on all the tours and with most tour companies, that is the case.

I suggest you find a local travel agency to work with, where you can go in and develop a relationship with on of their agents. They have access to thousands of companies and can assist you, be your advocate, to find the best tour for your personal needs. Also, you might want to do a trip that isn't on a tour. This is possible, where you are more in control of what you do, or don't do.
Likes: Vacationagent

Grant Ritchie

Dependable adequacy :-)
Oct 1, 2014
Dear Ms. Spector,

In future, you might want to make it more clear to whichever agency you retain, the depth (if you will) of your fear of heights. As I read your post, I was thinking, "What in God's name did they book her for... a visit to the observation deck of a skyscraper? A climb to the top of the Golden Gate bridge? But hikes? Her feet were on the ground."

The agent probably made the same assumptions I did, but if you feel strongly enough about this (and it sounds as if you do), I'd suggest that you make a specific request of Gate 1. It looks as if they've gone out of their way to respond to you. So, ask for something. A partial refund for this trip might not happen, but a voucher to apply toward another trip might. Give it a try.

Good luck!

Dec 3, 2014
Hi Anne,

I do agree that someone in the agency should have known the details. Maybe not the phone agent, but someone has to plan the itinerary and keep up with it. They would need to be able to advise regarding suitability for mobility issues, as well as your situation. And they should have gotten back to you. I'd think they would want to make sure their customers would have a good experience with their company. I went on a five-day tour of the Scottish highlands this summer. It was wonderful, but the one comment I made in my review is that it was much more physical than I expected. I could totally do everything on the tour, but it did involve a lot of moderate hiking and climbing (and heights), occasionally in not the safest conditions, that wasn't clear from the itinerary on the website, and I could see someone booking it and not being able to participate in all of the activities. I got my exercise for sure, as well as a massive bruise when I fell and a gashed hand from grabbing onto rusty barbed wire.

Usual disclaimer: not an expert, just a fellow traveler. Good luck to you!
Likes: Grant Ritchie

Neil Maley

Staff Member
Dec 27, 2014
New York
Hi, Anne:

Unfortunately, you really didn't book with a travel agent, you booked with a reservation agent who's job is to sell your the trip.

A good travel agent that knew about the country or tour you were looking at could have looked at the itinerary and advised you better. But a plus would have been an agent that has actually been to the country you were visiting and knew the pitfalls.

When looking for a travel agent to work with, make up a list of questions and interview the agent. You have every right to ask questions to make sure this is an agent that you want to work with. Your agent should have been to the country or booked many people to it or even have a certification for selling that particular country. Ask if they have been there, if they have any tips for you, etc.

Just as when calling a cruise line the agent selling the cruise may never have been on a cruise and wouldn't know to tell you what to watch out for when booking a cabin, a travel agent needs to know something about the trips they are booking.

Can I ask what tour you booked to take a look at the itinerary?
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