Login | August 09, 2020

Local travel agents see rebound in business

Special to the Legal News

Published: January 19, 2016

Local travel agents are seeing more clients use agencies again to arrange trips after several years of using online booking sites, say local agents.

“Over the past several years there’s been a significant increase in the number of people booking travel online and it has certainly impacted our industry,” said Susan Heitkamp, a travel advisor from Grandview Travel. “Interestingly enough, though, we’re beginning to see a number of people coming back to brick and mortar agencies. The industry has seen an increase in traffic as clients and prospects realize the value in having a professional book the trips for them.”

Heitkamp says the change goes back to trust and relationships. She said there is evidence that the reviews on various travel sites aren’t legitimate and, if they are, clients have to allow for the differences in taste and expectations.

Travel agents want to give the clients the best recommendations possible while using their extensive knowledge and expertise, she said.

“We get to know our clients. We give them the best recommendations possible within their budgets. We give them our experience and opinion,” Heitkamp said.

The travel agencies are also benefiting from more people traveling these days.

There are two primary reasons for the increase in the number of travelers, according to Heitkamp.

“A stronger economy here at home and a stronger dollar abroad. And people may have been delaying bigger trips and didn’t want to wait any longer,” she said. “Overall the travel industry had a very good year. Sales are definitely up.”

Heitkamp said Europe continues to remain a popular destination. Italy is the leading European destination among travelers from Columbus, she said.

“One option many travelers are choosing is European river cruises. It’s the fastest growing segment of the travel industry,” Heitkamp said. “River cruising can be a very convenient way to visit many places as your ‘room’ travels with you. It’s a vastly different experience than typical ocean cruises.”

The river cruises were ranked third behind Caribbean Cruises and Cancun, Mexico on the 2016 Top International Destinations list from the Travel Leader Group’s 2016 Travel Trends Survey.

The Survey, conducted from Nov. 17 though Dec. 8, gathered responses and data on already booked trips for 2016 from 1,316 U.S. based travel agency owners, managers and agents.

There has been a large increase in travelers who are interested in traveling to Europe and Asia, according to Heitkamp. She also said Cuba has become a hot destination for more travelers and the tour experiences are booking out a year in advance.

Paris fell to the number 11 on the list, making it the first time since 2011 it hasn’t been in the top 10.

The survey also showed Orlando as the top U.S. destination, barely beating out Maui, Hawaii and Alaska cruises.

Heitkamp said she has noticed new trends in the industry, but some things continue to remain popular.

“Other significant trends are the rise of multi-generational trips and milestone trips. Milestone trips may include an extended family traveling to celebrate a significant wedding anniversary, a couple or family traveling to celebrate a graduation. We’re seeing increasing numbers of gay and lesbian couples planing destination weddings and honeymoons,” Heitkamp said. “For those looking for a winter break in the sun, all-inclusives and cruises remain popular and can be a very good value.”

Heitkamp works with a wide range of different clients, who are looking for different things from their vacation.

“Clients range from 20 somethings planning graduation trips with friends, to families, groups of adult friends and everything in between. Some people travel two to three times a year; others have been saving up and only go on a big trip every few years,” said Heitkamp.

Although it’s difficult to calculate a typical budget, Heitkamp said clients roughly spend around $3,000 per person, per trip.

“Some clients are looking for an affordable way to take the kids to Disney, while others take their children on a Mediterranean cruise,” she said. “It’s also challenging to gauge budgets from one year to the next. For many travelers it’s simply a matter of it being the ‘right time’ to take a dream trip to Europe or go on an African safari.”

Copyright © 2016 The Daily Reporter - All Rights Reserved