Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Lifestyle

May 21, 2012

Cutting the travel time

More people using travel agents

For the most part, there is a lot of planning that goes into traveling. Some like to handle the details on their own, making arrangements on the phone or using travel websites to book hotels, planes, vehicles and so on.

But lately, working with a travel agent is becoming more popular.

An industry facing tough competition from the Internet is apparently making a comeback. According to Forrester Research, more travelers are becoming frustrated with booking trips online. About 28 percent of study respondents said they would use a local travel agent instead.

Part of that rise could be the frustration from booking online. IBM Institute for Business Value’s survey of 2,000 travelers reports 20 percent of them said it took more than five hours to search and book travel online. About 50 percent said it took more than two hours.

“When you put all of the pieces of a vacation together, that list can be pretty daunting,” said Ruth Nagy, director of travel operations for AAA East Central. “We get phone calls from people struggling on websites, investing hours. An agent saves time and frustration.”

PhoCusWright, a travel research firm, said about one in three agencies are hiring. In 2011, bookings made by travel agencies increased, making up about a third of the overall travel market nationwide. American Society of Travel Agents reported 57 percent of travel agencies saw an increase in business in 2011.

Working with a person instead of on your own has a few advantages, said Chuck Teal, owner of Teal Travel in Pendleton.

“You’re dealing with someone who has a lot of experience,” Teal said. “And there’s a better opportunity to find the lowest rate.”

Websites don’t always let you shop and compare rates, Nagy said. Commercial travel sites don’t always have the lowest rates. On the other hand, an agent can compare multiple rates at the same time. Often, Nagy said, booking through a travel agent can lead to lower costs overall.

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