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Written by Jaclyn Glezer, 14 July 2021

COVID-19 has exposed a number of cracks that exist in the practice of travel agents. Currently, there aren’t any binding regulations that must be adhered to, which creates a massive variation in how agents choose to operate. To help you find the best travel agency, here are five key questions to ask your agent upfront.

1. Do you charge mark-ups?

Mark-ups are hidden fees that agents may choose to apply to your booking, in order to make some extra revenue. This fee might be a totally different charge to the next customer, asking for the exact same service. In my opinion, a good agent will disclose a schedule of fees upfront so you are aware of any additional service fees. Hidden fees and mark-ups are something I would personally steer clear of.

2. If my trip is cancelled due to no fault of my own, will I be entitled to a full refund?

Reading through terms and conditions are not much fun, but if you have an agent working for you, they should be taking care of this. Make sure they clearly outline what cancellation terms are provided by your supplier and by their office.

3. What commission are you charging for my travel insurance?

Agents can also scale the commission received on your travel insurance. We have seen a case where half of a traveller's insurance cost was actually the agent's commission! If you aren't sure whether the commission is reasonable, make sure to go online and undertake a quick comparison yourself.

4. Are there any wholesalers involved in my purchase?

Agents may choose to use a go-between, called a 'wholesaler,' to arrange your booking. This may be due to a lack of expertise, the ease in arranging your booking or perhaps due to the uniqueness of your booking. Regardless of the reason, another intermediary in your booking effectively means additional costs and additional terms and conditions. If your agent has chosen to use a wholesaler, it is important to find out why, and see whether it’s beneficial or not for your agent to book directly with the supplier.

5. Will my money be held in a trust account?

At present, there is no requirement for your funds to be held in a trust. Why is this important? Given your money is intended for a travel booking, a trust offers greater protection for your funds. This structure means that your agent can’t use your money for anything other than your holiday.

I hope my tips have been helpful. Happy (post-COVID) travels!

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