retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

You may remember that in May 2011, our very own Michael Sansolo wrote a column in which he extolled the advantages of using a travel agent, suggesting that even in a time when more and more people use online travel services, a great agent can make travel - these days, often a dispiriting experience - easier. Or at least less complicateI.

(Michael's original column can be found here.)

I completely agree with Michael on this one … not least because we share the same travel agent. In fact, if memory serves, I'm the one who referred Michael to Gary Brooks of Protravel, who has been making my life considerably easier for more than a dozen years.

It appears, if one is to believe the Los Angeles Times, that perhaps the rest of the world is catching up with us.

According to the Times, "Although online travel websites like Orbitz and Travelocity are now responsible about 70% of travel booking in the U.S., the folks who work out of brick-and-mortar travel agencies are reporting booming sales … Travel agents say revenues, bookings and the total number of clients are up in the first half of 2014 compared with the same period last year, according to a survey by the American Society of Travel Agents, which represents nearly 6,000 travel agents across the country … Of the agents questioned in the survey, 47% reported higher revenue, with 27% saying revenue has remained about the same as last year. Also, 45% reported more transactions this year, with 30% saying business has been about the same."

Now, I'm not surprised that revenue is up, since travel costs are up … but it says a lot that the number of transactions are up as well.

And it is worth repeating a point that Michael made back in 2011 - the value that travel agents continue to provide to their clients, and apparently seem to providing with greater frequency and with greater success, is a good model for any retailer doing battle with online competitors. They are able to find inexpensive and budget alternatives, but they also do so within the context of what their customers need, based on a knowledge of their preferences and exigent circumstances.

And if you continue to do it, over and over, you get good word of mouth, a growing customer base, and expanded sales.

It's an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: