Are travel agents making a comeback?

Only a professional guide can make sense of all the data
There are signs that travel agencies on the street may be making a comeback following two decades of decline amid the rise of online travel agents and travel supplier websites. Consumers are demanding brick-and-mortar agencies again.
Liberty Travel just opened a 650-square-metre travel store in Philadelphia to match two similar flagship megastores in New York and Boston. A fourth, even larger Apple-inspired hyperstore will open in Los Angeles later this month. The company operates around 170 agencies around the country.
In the US, online bookings, 9/11 and the economic recession conspired to slash the number of retail agencies by 59% between 1997 and 2013. From 2003 to 2014, the number of independent agents working from home rose 434% – now numbering more than retail location agents. But the independents’ combined sales are small compared to storefront and corporate agencies.
“Consumers are increasingly using travel advisors,” says Zane Kerby, president and CEO of US trade association ASTA. “Average sales are on the rise, and agencies are thriving with 84% of our members in the first three quarters of 2014 reporting that their revenues were better than the year before. I think the reason behind that is there is so much information available now to people on the internet that you need a professional guide to make sense of it all.”
[image courtesy Liberty Travel]

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