Buy cheap, buy twice.

Clichés become clichés because there’s always a large dollop of truth in them. We’ve all heard this one before and we usually associate it with buying cheap clothes that disintegrate after the first or second wash or the piece of gear or tech that was made in China and stops working after relatively little use. But did you know that those words of wisdom can also apply to the purchase of nearly anything — including travel products or services?

Ryanair customers discovered earlier this week that there are sometimes consequences for choosing the cheapest air fare available. To be fair, any airline could have gotten its pilot rostering wrong but it’s what happened next that best illustrated why you get what you pay for and why more and more consumers are beginning to realise that cheapest isn’t always necessarily best — whether that relates to airline seats, cruise itineraries, hotel rooms or car hire rates. Things are usually cheap for a reason and if you’re happy to accept that reason, whatever it may be, then fair enough. It’s when you pay for a sow’s ear and expect to receive a silk purse in return that I have a problem with. When will people learn that price and value are not remotely the same thing?

People who booked their Ryanair flights through a travel agent will have had a totally different experience last week to those that booked directly with the carrier itself. People who booked their holidays to Florida or their cruises to the Caribbean through a travel agent will have had a radically different experience recently when the hurricanes came ashore than those who went down the DIY route. Why? Because travel agents take their duty of care seriously and they also know that service is really the only thing that provides them with a competitive edge over the ‘stack it high, sell it cheap’ emporiums who trade exclusively online. It’s just such a shame that it takes events such as those for travelers to appreciate that that is the extra value that traditional travel agents bring to the table. It’s a shame that it takes an unpleasant experience for consumers to appreciate that it’s always worth paying that little bit extra to ensure that someone is always looking after your best interests and is there to step into the breech should things go wrong.

In the USA, consumers are beginning to re-discover travel agents. They are sick and tired of the ‘hidden extras’ that so many online traders stick them with. They’re tired of the limited information that is made available to them but most of all, they’re overwhelmed with the sheer overload of information that they’re provided with when they type in even the simplest of search queries. Perhaps most surprising of all though is the demographic showing the largest migration from online to offline — it is Millennials — the tech-savvy twenty and thirty-year olds who have grown up with the Internet but who have now become somewhat disillusioned with it and want to have a more authentic and rewarding experience!

Do they know something that you don’t?

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