Travel agents back in demand
It sounds so last century, but Geraldine Blanchard remembers a time when only travel agents or airlines could book flights for passengers.
Those days flew by the wayside in the 1990s, with the advent of technology that allowed everyone with Internet access to work directly with airlines and travel providers to reserve their own passage, by land or sea. Travel agencies nationwide suffered and, in many cases, downsized or closed
?It was like everyone became a travel agent, or thought they were,? said Blanchard, vice president and co-owner of Global Tours & Travel of Melbourne.
But increasingly, certain segments of the traveling public appear to be returning to travel agents to do their booking and oversee their journeys.
It?s not all good news, at least job-wise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 64,680 full-time travel agents in 2012. A decade before, there were 95,360.
Revenues, however, have gone up. Travel agencies generated $17.5 billion in revenue in 2011, up from $9.4 billion in 2002, according to the Census Bureau. Part of that is due to higher pricing, but it also can be attributed to increased productivity thanks to technology. For instance, agencies used to have a backroom of agents who put together paper tickets and mailed them to clients.
However it happened, Blanchard is pleased ? and busy.
?The pendulum is going the other way once again,? said Blanchard, whose business is 18 years old. ?And it?s wonderful for us.?
At 72, Shirley Fulton wouldn?t dream of taking off on a trip without conferring with her preferred travel agency, Cruise Holidays of Viera.
Just in the past year or so, the Brevard resident has taken several cruises ? the longest, 15 days, and the shortest, two-day jaunts. Some are with girlfriends; she?s also gone on group trips led by Larry and Lynda Jackson, owners of Cruise Holidays.
She feels safer and, in turn, has more fun, she said of going that route.
?I?ve gotten lazy and old and, I?d like to think, smarter,? Fulton said, laughing.
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