What if we told you that people still use travel agents? And what if we told you that outsourcing your travel planning could actually save you money?
You’d call B.S., right?
That's a perception Celina and Zach Leopold are actively trying to change. Married since 2010, the two 28-year-olds recently bought Cincinnati-based Holiday Cruise and Travel on Beechmont Avenue with the aim of re-introducing Millennials to a service their parents likely used.
Why? Because the two are ardent fans of the transformative power of travel and want travel-seekers to explore the world regardless of their budgets.
And so below, Celina and Zach call B.S. on a few common myths about working with a travel agency like theirs.
Myth #1: I can book the same trip on my own.
Yes — but also no. That was a tough lesson Celina and Zach learned firsthand, and partly what led them to buy the agency when founders Pete and Debbie Taylor-Ulbrich, who started the agency in 1985, went into semi-retirement. Pete and Debbie still plan trips for agency clients on a part-time basis.
After admittedly botching a self-planned honeymoon to Mexico in 2010, Celina and Zach walked into Holiday Cruise and Travel to see what Pete and Debbie could do to help them plan a trip back, specifically to Cozumel.
“We expected — like I think most people do — that they would be like car salesmen,” says Zach, who also owns The Rook OTR. “But it was very different. They put together this awesome itinerary that was affordable and within our budget.”
They soon realized that working with an agent afforded access to deals and unique adventures they'd otherwise miss. Celina was so convinced, she started considering becoming a travel agent herself. And now, she's the one getting clients special deals and perks, including deals on air travel. “We have access to unpublished air that you can’t even find online,” Celina says.
Myth #2: Travel agents ramp up pricing so they can make a high commission.
“We do work on commission, but the hotels and resorts pay us the commission, not our clients,” Celina explains. “So no, we’re not going to up-charge you $200 to make $200.” Many travel agents work this way, though some will charge a fee for their time. Holiday Cruise and Travel does not. This means their service, expertise, and access is, essentially, FREE to you.
"We charge nothing to customers," Zach says. "We are paid by hundreds of companies like Delta, Expedia, G Adventures, Royal Caribbean... We are certified with these companies and other international travel organizations to sell travel at bulk rates. You will never pay more traveling with us than booking directly."
In fact, Zach says 65 percent of trips the agency booked for clients last year were cheaper than what people were finding online, especially on trips to Europe.
Money isn’t the only thing an agent can save you. The same study found that agents saved clients four hours of travel planning time. Celina and Zach can certainly attest to this. “I’m running The Rook, we have three kids — we’re very, very busy,” Zach says. “So for us to be able to get some help with the logistics so things don’t fall through the cracks saves us so much.”
Myth #3: Travel agents are old and outdated.
“We actually prefer the term ‘travel specialist’ because ‘agent’ sounds so old-fashioned,” Celina says with a laugh.
New names aside, Celina and Zach want people, particularly DIY Millennials like themselves, to be aware of the value that a travel agent — sorry, specialist — can provide. “We've started to go out to trade shows and bridal shows and meet people, but for the most part our business is about establishing relationships,” says Zach.
Celina elaborates: “We had the option to put all the best deals up on our website, but we don’t really want to do that,” she says. “We want to connect with people. What was so special about meeting Pete and Deb is that they became our friends. Something like that doesn’t happen with Expedia.”
- - -
Click through the gallery above to see photos of some of the places Celina and Zach have sent clients to, and once your wanderlust kicks in, head over to holidaycruiseandtravel.com to start planning your next vacay.