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Real Travel Agents


Value of Real Travel Agents Laude During
Difficult Times Following Terrorist Attacks

By Richard S. Kahn
President of Kahn Travel Communications

Richard S. Kahn is a 35-year veteran travel writer, editor and public relations specialist in the travel industry. He is the former editor-in-chief of Travel Agent Magazine and has written for and about the travel industry since 1967.

     NEW YORK, Sept. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on the U.S., the travel industry has undoubtedly taken a hard hit. Questions in the industry bellow: Can the travel distribution system bounce back? Will consumers regain the confidence to travel?  

Admittedly, it will take time, but yes, it will happen. Consumers will resume their planning of family vacations, honeymoon getaways and long-weekends away from the office. The American spirit and our history suggest that the travel industry will rebound! The big questions to be answered are when and how will consumers plan their trips in the future and, more significantly, how will they make their purchases in light of the numerous failures of the Internet and other direct purchase programs during the recent transportation crisis.

The value of using the services of a travel agent has become more pronounced following the recent terrorist attacks on the United States and the resulting havoc on the world's travel and transportation system. Travel agents do add value unmatched through any other distribution channel. Consumers will be looking, now more than ever, for someone to guide them into making educated vacation choices and, more importantly, to hold responsible for problems that may arise before or during their travels.

Numerous news stories are now coming out about how people who purchased airline tickets and vacation packages over the Internet, or even directly from the airlines, were stranded overseas or in distant cities from their homes and could not get anyone on the Internet or within the airlines to help them when they needed it most. Web sites went up and down all week and the airlines had their own problems with the shut down of the airports across the nation. Only the hapless travel agents were there to handle all the calls from frantic travelers.

Many of these stranded travelers turned to travel agents for assistance even though, in most cases, the travel agent was not responsible for the original bookings. In nearly all cases, travel agents were able to come to the rescue of the abandoned travelers because of their industry expertise and knowledge of how to get things done in the travel distribution system, especially in a crisis.

Bringing a personal touch to the "dot.com" world of selling travel, Vacation.com -- North America's largest vacation selling network, with more than 10,000 brick and mortar member travel agency locations nationwide -- had a host of agencies and human travel agents come through for travelers who were directly affected by last week's events.

Travelers who purchased tickets over the Internet or directly through the airlines were out of luck following last week's crisis. The small service fees that some travel agents charge have proven to be a trivial amount for the service being provided. And last week, these same agents performed hours of hard work helping people who were not clients and hadn't paid them a fee for their service. Travel agents went above and beyond to help the travel industry and assist people in get home following the tragic events of Sept 11.

Drake Hiller of Ace Travel House, a Vacation.com member agency in Houston, assisted a passenger on an Aer Lingus flight who was stranded without a paper ticket. Hiller took the time to arrange for a new ticket at no extra cost to the passenger and at no service charge. He basically did this for free to help. Can a web site do that?

A family needing to fly from New York to Florida for a funeral found there were no flights available on the Internet and couldn't even get the airlines on the telephone. A local Vacation.com travel agent completed the ticketing in 15 minutes at a rate that was far below what the travelers expected to pay.

Many people who purchased their airline tickets on-line could not get them changed last week, even several days after the terrorist attacks. Those travelers particularly impacted were people already in-transit, both domestically and abroad. Americans in foreign countries described the situation as hopeless. They couldn't even get local travel agents in the foreign destination to help them. Many made long-distance calls to the U.S. to reach a Vacation.com travel agent for assistance. The agents were able to create new tickets and had them electronically transferred to a pick-up location overseas.

"The personal touch of travel agents was especially useful during last week's events, when travelers needed travel agents more than ever -- and agents were there to help them return home to be with their loved ones during this stressful time," said Dick Knodt, CEO of Vacation.com. "We are especially proud of our 10,000 member travel agencies and the incredible effort they have put forth to assist and protect consumers and to reunite so many stranded passengers with their families," he added.

These stories come from Vacation.com member travel agencies across the United States and Canada. Vacation.com operates the travel industry's largest leisure travel marketing organization providing consumers with an array of vacation products over the Internet and, at the same time, it offers the personal touch and security of an extensive network of more than 10,000 travel agency locations across North America with a cadre of thousands of experienced travel agents.

"In my visits to member travel agencies this tragic week, the great importance of having a real human being as your travel agent has become quite apparent," said Mike Migliore, Northeast regional sales manager for Vacation.com. "Seeing the work of our member agents and how they helped stranded travelers has proven to me how important the agency community is to the traveling public," he added. "While web sites were unreliable all week with system errors and enormous Internet traffic, the airlines had their own problems with the shut down of airports across the nation. However, it was the travel agents who were there to help," Migliore added.

"The travel industry is facing a difficult time, but we want to remind the public that there are thousands of brick and mortar travel agencies out there offering a human touch, including more than 10,000 Vacation.com locations across North America," said Knodt. "And, now more than ever before, travel agents are an important ally and consumers can rely on travel agents when both the airlines and the Internet fail as they did last week," he added. "Consumers want to use the Internet to search for the multitude of vacation choices available around the world, but they also want the validation of a travel professional to help them choose the right vacation package," said Knodt.

Bringing a personal touch to the "dot.com" world of selling travel, Vacation.com encourages consumers interested in researching and/or booking leisure vacation packages to log-on to the company's web site (http://www.vacation.com) where they can explore travel options on-line and choose a host agent who will deliver dedicated assistance meeting each consumer's specific travel needs. To find a local Vacation.com member agency, consumers can also call 800-876-4581.

The travel industry will recover from this tragedy. "We will come out of this crisis because people want the travel experience and many consider traveling on vacation as an inalienable right -- an experience that is part of their life that they are not willing to give up," said Knodt.

SOURCE Vacation.com

Web Site: http://www.vacation.com

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