An article in Herald News points to an interesting trend – brick & mortar travel agencies are experiencing somewhat busy times in what could be the first stirrings of a backlash against Internet travel. Shoppers increasingly tired of negotiating a complex maze of portals, meta-search engines, direct suppliers & review sites are now turning to an old, familiar faithful around the block – the travel agent.
The article mentions ‘time-consuming trips, luxury vacations, and high-end travel’ as areas where agents have an edge. Travel agents are also good at building relationships and providing old-fashioned customer service.
The numbers tell a different story. The $60 billion online travel market is no land of confusion, at least, not forever. According to Travel Industry Association of America, more bookings were made online in 2005 than by any other method! Online travel search is being continuously improved. Yahoo recently combined Farechase, its metasearch engine into its main search technology to show the lowest-price offers directly in results. The big portals have moved beyond best rates to offer superior service and real-world type guarantees. Even Google is getting onboard. A better deal seems to be the shape of things to come!
The Internet has a way of “shaking out” the best business model if things get too complex. It may be a bit early to celebrate the resurgence of the travel agent.