Should You Hire A Travel Agent That Has No Reviews? Here's What To Consider

Reviews can present an interesting dichotomy: A lack of reviews can hurt your chances of getting customers and thus, more reviews. The reality is that everyone gets their start somewhere, and reviews in any industry aren't created in a vacuum. To tell you the truth, you should maybe trust someone with no reviews, as they didn't pay for them or make a bunch of fake accounts (which is all too common nowadays). Ask any entrepreneur or new Airbnb host. Those first few reviews are the hardest to get, as we've become so accustomed to, and reliant on, reading others' reviews to make our decisions.

However, a business with no reviews can also be a red flag. Unfortunately, the world is full of scammers who pose as all kinds of professionals. For example, when natural disasters hit, fake contractors or insurance adjusters show up in droves to take money — from aid organizations, the government, and individuals — then look for the next natural disaster to scam. Point being, most scam artists don't really have limits to their unconscionable behavior, regardless of the situation.

When it comes to a travel agent without reviews, you shouldn't completely dismiss their ability, as they may actually go above and beyond in their nascent careers. That said, you also shouldn't completely dismiss the idea that it could be a scam. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to better gauge the situation and find the perfect travel agent.

Credentials aren't necessary, but telling

While reviews are one thing, credentials are another. Legally, travel agents aren't required to have any credentials. However, most travel agents do earn qualifications and join memberships to better market their business. And there are plenty of classes and seminars to attend that can increase their knowledge concerning travel technology, travel agent-specific discounts, the geography of certain regions, and more.

If you're considering a travel agent with no reviews, check to see if they're a member of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA). Again, they're not required to be part of this group. But if they aren't, it may be a red flag. ASTA is a self-monitoring group within the industry to ensure ethical practices, and it also provides new agents with training courses on the profession.

Perhaps most importantly, if a travel agent isn't a member of ASTA, they might not get agent-specific discounts offered to ASTA members or access to a global distribution system that offers insider prices (which is the crux of travel industry economics). If your travel agent is a lone wolf, then they may be either a scam artist or not doing their job very well. Okay, maybe we're being a bit glib. Regardless, if they aren't a member (and have no reviews), then it's a prescient question to ask before moving forward.

Travel agents are specialized

If you encounter a travel agent without reviews, there's one more aspect of the profession worth knowing. In almost all cases, travel agents are specialized. Whether it's Disney-specific, family vacations, luxury trips, or specialized knowledge of a particular region of the world, agents rely on niche insight to compete with other agents. If you come across a travel agent without a specialization, it's another red flag.

This specialization may also come with its own credentials. For example, if you're speaking to an agent regarding a cruise, they should be credentialed by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). Again, it's not an absolute requirement. However, travel agents could miss out on getting insider cruise discounts only available to CLIA members.

When it comes to travel agents without reviews, there are always exceptions, and any given situation may be unique. However, scam artists don't have boundaries, and unfortunately, the travel agent scam isn't new. For example: In 2019, a woman was charged for posing as a travel agent and scamming 82 people over two years — worth up to $400,000. The financial and emotional toll on the people who paid money and packed for a vacation to nowhere was immense. 

Ultimately, there's no reason to immediately dismiss an agent without reviews, but be sure to ask questions and demand understandable answers when you meet.