A travel agency is a private retailer or public service that provides travel and tourism-related services to the general public on behalf of accommodation or travel suppliers to offer different kinds of travelling packages for each destination. Travel agencies can provide outdoor recreation activities, airlines, car rentals, cruise lines, hotels, railways, travel insurance, package tours, insurance, guide books, VIP airport lounge access, arranging logistics for luggage and medical items delivery for travellers upon request, public transport timetables, car rentals, and bureau de change services. Travel agencies can also serve as general sales agents for airlines that do not have offices in a specific region. A travel agency’s main function is to act as an agent, selling travel products and services on behalf of a supplier. They are also called Travel Advisors. They do not keep inventory in-hand unless they have pre-booked hotel rooms or cabins on a cruise ship for a group travel event such as a wedding, honeymoon, or other group event.
Travel agencies often receive commissions and other benefits and incentives from providers or may charge a fee to the end users.Hotel owners and tour operators typically pay a higher commission rate to travel agencies, whereas airlines typically pay a low commission. The customer is normally not made aware of how much the travel agent is earning in commissions and other benefits. A 2016 survey of 1,193 travel agents in the United States found that on average 78% of their revenue was from commissions and 22% was generated from fees.
Travel agencies use the services of the major computer reservations systems, also known as global distribution systems (GDS), including: Amadeus CRS, Galileo GDS, Sabre, and Worldspan, which is a subsidiary of Travelport, which allow for comparison and sorting of hotel and flight rates with multiple companies. Bookings made via travel agents, including online travel agents, may or may not be confirmed instantly. Unlike online travel agencies, metasearch engines and scraper sites, such as Skyscanner, Kayak.com, Rome2rio, and TripAdvisor, may or may not have their own booking engine, and instead provide results for search queries and then divert traffic to service providers or online travel agencies for booking. Travel agents may also work with airline consolidators.