Before the internet, a well-connected travel agent was the only way to book a comprehensive vacation. But today, things are a little more complicated. As a travel agent, no doubt you are familiar with the one overwhelming argument from the general populace: Why should they pay a professional when all the resources to research and book a vacation are available online?

This simple piece of rationale is your biggest obstacle. Even clients who seek you out will probably want to ask this question. What can you offer them that websites like Orbitz or Trivago can't? No matter what regions or vacation types you specialize in, your elevator pitch is going to have to answer this question satisfactorily for every single new client. So there's no time like right now to perfect that pitch. Whether you're talking to a client across your desk or a potential client you just met outside of work, you want to be able to explain what a travel agent really has to offer that will beat instant booking platforms every time.

"When has an online platform asked you about your travel preferences?"

The best tool in your elevator pitch toolbox is the heartless impersonal process of online booking platforms. Platforms will offer a selection of plane seats and hotel rooms, but there won't be any way to personalize the experience. Meeting special requests, whether they are desires or requirements, is not their strong suit. An online platform cannot help a client find the best window seat with a view on their flight. It can't help them avoid triggers for their food allergy, make sure they have adjacent seats with their traveling companions, or help them calculate for traveling with a toddler. You can.

Remind your prospective clients that they have travel preferences no online platform could help them with. From in-flight meal preferences to baby-friendly hotels, you can meet their needs and desires in a way that an online platform never could. And in a fraction the time it would take clients to do the extensive research on their own.

"I can book you a complete vacation experience, not just a room and a flight."

When planning a vacation, each person has their own vision of how the experience will be. Perhaps they want to go on a wine tasting tour all over the legendary vineyards of Italy or explore breathtaking ruins of ancient civilizations. Perhaps they want non-stop sea and sun activities or to book a hotel with so many luxury services they never have to leave the building. Arranging for this kind of complete vacation, however, can take months trying to book it all ahead of time through online research and websites.

Point out to your clients that, as a travel agent, complete experiences tailored to their desires are your specialty. Instead of spending weeks doing research, a client can simply explain to you how they envision their vacation and in a few days, you can make that plan a reality. Not only will they get everything they dreamed of, but it will all be scheduled and waiting for them hassle-free from the moment they step off the plane.

"Travel agent connections can get you discounts you never imagined were possible."

Many people use online booking platforms for the package discounts. It feels good to save money and booking through a platform in and of itself feels pretty frugal. What they don't realize is that for a modest travel agent fee, you can get them discounts they never dreamed were possible. This is because you are a real person with real industry connections. 

By making a few phone calls and pulling a few strings, you can get clients almost anything they could want. From free spots on fixed-seat tours to half-price honeymoon suites, asking you to work your network could easily result in an incredible (and incredibly affordable) vacation.

"I'll be here for you if something goes wrong, from missed flights to bad service."

Finally, don't forget to remind your clients about the biggest difference of all: disaster management. Travel is full of unexpected problems and setbacks, something online platforms practically bank on. They specialize in making clients pay the full price for missed flights or a second hotel room if something is profoundly wrong with the first one. 

You, on the other hand, specialize in making problems go away. After missing a flight or experiencing a sudden and uncontrollable change in plans, all your clients need is to get you on the phone and you'll help them salvage the vacation with style. You can find them a new flight that leaves in only an hour or two, you can have a rental car waiting for them, and you can force a hotel that falls through to give clients a nicer room at a discount instead of leaving clients in the lurch.

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Perfecting your travel agent elevator pitch is all about highlighting what you offer that online quick-booking does not. From custom trip requirements to personalized experiences to dedicated problem solving, remind your clients that having a human travel expert on their side is infinitely better than a heartless booking website. You care if they have a good time and will make sure that nothing logistics-related could possibly ruin their vacation. From there, it's just up to your clients to have a wonderful time.