It’s a great question but very easy to answer, in fact.
To synthesize: travel agents have a job at a travel agency; Travel consultants have connections, passion and deep knowledge about travel!
Of course we can say that some TA’s are also passionate about travel and I personally have known a few! However, their main task is to sell you travel packages or any other product they have been supplied. Their main focus is to sell what their supplier has already sold them. Have you ever asked an agent the “where should I go” question?! Their answer is always “why don’t you go to [x] as we have a great deal at the moment”!!!
TA’s either i) try to sell you a travel product or ii) they take orders (certain flight/date/hotel) from clients based on system’s availability. That’s their job!
Even some online TA’s do this every day as they are a franchise of a travel agency.
On the other end of the spectrum there are travel consultants…
We see ourselves as part of a team with our client(s). We are part of a collaboration process in order to create a customized experience (that’s why we certainly don’t try to sell anything). We gather client’s information and provide all they want, the way they want. We don’t seek a discount or a commission, we create value to our client. Moreover, since we’re not affiliated with any supplier, the same destination can be – and is, actually! – “sold” to different clients as two completely travel experiences . We don’t work for a supplier, we work with and for the client!
TA’s are somehow valuable at booking flights through their booking engines (GDS) one might argue, but consultants can overcome this last “hurdle” very easily these days! We don’t simply rely on system availability, we search the web and our own contacts to overcome any obstacles. And let me assure you… we can deliver even better results!
Bottom line, if you are seeking a travel package, then a TA is the right choice. On the other hand, if you seek a customized travel experience, if you care about the value consultants can bring to the table, if you want a personalized plan based on your needs/wishes and ultimately if you believe that a journey is not only about the destination but a whole experience, than you need a travel consultant. We can create value, save you time, money and provide you some unimaginable perks…!