How travel agencies survive these days?

Old Apr 2nd, 2024, 06:48 PM
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How travel agencies survive these days?

Went for a walk and noticed a travel agency which had been around at least 30 years, before the web, still seemed to be in business.

Curious so I looked up their website:

https://www.travelsmiths.net

They seem to offer packages put together by some company called Ensemble or maybe that's the product name. But they offer things like AMA Waterways and Viking cruises, relatively high-priced stuff.

No prices listed anywhere. There are links to "specials" and "offers" but they allude to some credits.

My guess is these packages start out at high 4-figure and more.

It doesn't seem to be a high-volume operation, not many Google reviews. So they have to make it on margins.

There are some affluent folks around here but a lot of them are in the tech industry or worked in it and probably retired with good nest eggs. So they can certainly afford premium tours, though like everyone else, they're proficient enough to research and do their own bookings.

Maybe there are enough clients for businesses like this one who wants things arranged for them. Speaking for myself, I would just find it difficult to pay twice or more than it would cost me to do bookings myself. I've looked at some fancier tour operators, sometimes to get itinerary ideas.

But I don't mind doing the research, good way to learn about places, history, culture, which is similar to a real good guide book.

The other part is, still have very little interest in cruises. Floating past the Budapest parliament at night does look cool but is the rest of the cruise as interesting?

In any event, it's good to see a local business still survive, if not thrive, especially in a disrupted industry like leisure travel.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2024, 07:13 PM
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"My guess is these packages start out at high 4-figure and more."

I think you are probably right.

A friend of a friend is a high end (luxury) travel agent. I follow him on FB and he posts about his travels (meeting vendors around the world), trips he has posted for clients and has extremely strong return business percentages. His trips can be pricey, but he takes care of all of the details and get special add-ons. My favorite place in Oia, Santorini (I discovered via a wealthy friend about 20 years ago - and I'm sure she uses a high end travel agent to book her trips) is one of his favorites too. He posted photos last year and I posted that I loved that place. His response = the owner/ manager is a friend of his and he can get extras for me when/if I return. I booked directly (which I normally do).

I am taking a small group trip with him this summer and am thinking about a short domestic trip with him this fall. His trips are "luxury" but he does some less expensive options. He is starting to do some gay-only trips as well. His upcoming Portugal trip was mixed but so far everyone is gay so he's thinking about shifting that trip to a gay only trip.

He was just on a trip to Amsterdam and took a cruise line I'd never heard of before. I'm intrigued. As I get older, I am considering more small group tours that are personally designed - not tagging on to another company's options.

I know someone who is very well off and has always/ only used a high end travel agent. It's definitely "worth it" to have someone take care of all of the details and have a person to call to sort out any problems. My guess is those trips are close to the 10K per person range if not more. Suites at George V in Paris and at the Hassler at the top of the Spanish steps in Rome. Out of my price range, but I would love that kind of travel too.

"Maybe there are enough clients for businesses like this one who wants things arranged for them. "
Definitely.

A VERY wealthy friend (much younger than I) texted me last week asking me about "upscale tours" in Spain and Portugal. She's going to be my roomie on an Italy trip this fall - and she wants to do a luxury small group tour before. We shared a room last year in France on a small group excursion (pricey). She is crazy wealthy, so much so I can't imagine. After we parted, she was house hunting in the south of France. Seriously. House hunting. I offered my services as a house sitter. LOL. Anyway, I referred her to the luxury travel agent to see if he had any leads. There's plenty of "big money" out there.


Last edited by starrs; Apr 2nd, 2024 at 07:16 PM.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2024, 07:27 PM
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The river cruise he just took was on the Amadeus Cara -
https://www.amadeus-rivercruises.com...deus-cara.html
I had never heard of that line. He loved it.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2024, 07:31 PM
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We see a small sunset crowd milling around the main square in Gordes. One woman takes a seat on a bench there. It is Starrs and she has been hired as a house-hunter/scout for her crazy wealthy friend.
Starrs commences placing a call on her smart phone:
"Yeah Hi____! So look, I checked out that place you mentioned. Huh? No no, not the ambassador's villa but the other one. Yeah, uh-huh. The rapper's place. But it only had 12 bedrooms so I was like DON'T WASTE OUR TIME PIERRE!! with the agent. Right?
So anyway, I'm gonna need another month here to really hone in on what you guys want in a property. Let's not rush it, right?
Actually, let's make it 6 more weeks mkay? Good...OK...all right...(sweetly) all right.
So enjoy Mustique. Call me when you get back. Say hi to (voice fades)

I am done. the fantasy
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Old Apr 2nd, 2024, 08:13 PM
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Travel agents are still pretty popular in the UK and Australia, they are on most High Streets and shopping centres, you can buy flights, hotels, packages, cruises etc from the cheapest to the most expensive.

I always check out the price with them for flights along with reputable Online TA's as I find they are often significantly cheaper than buying directly with the airlines, I sometimes hear the argument about people worried if there are issues with the flights, you could be stranded but in all the hundreds of worldwide flights I've taken, I've never had a problem, I also make sure I always have travel insurance.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2024, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Geordie
Travel agents are still pretty popular in the UK and Australia, they are on most High Streets and shopping centres, you can buy flights, hotels, packages, cruises etc from the cheapest to the most expensive.

I always check out the price with them for flights along with reputable Online TA's as I find they are often significantly cheaper than buying directly with the airlines, I sometimes hear the argument about people worried if there are issues with the flights, you could be stranded but in all the hundreds of worldwide flights I've taken, I've never had a problem, I also make sure I always have travel insurance.

That's true, I do see travel agencies in Europe with all kinds of posters offering various packages. Usually somewhere on the Mediterranean and they're more bargain deals, probably fly down on a LCC and spend 4 nights or a long weekend. May be how hen and stag parties that are popular with young Brits are packaged.

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Old Apr 2nd, 2024, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by starrs
"My guess is these packages start out at high 4-figure and more."

I think you are probably right.

A friend of a friend is a high end (luxury) travel agent. I follow him on FB and he posts about his travels (meeting vendors around the world), trips he has posted for clients and has extremely strong return business percentages. His trips can be pricey, but he takes care of all of the details and get special add-ons. My favorite place in Oia, Santorini (I discovered via a wealthy friend about 20 years ago - and I'm sure she uses a high end travel agent to book her trips) is one of his favorites too. He posted photos last year and I posted that I loved that place. His response = the owner/ manager is a friend of his and he can get extras for me when/if I return. I booked directly (which I normally do).

I am taking a small group trip with him this summer and am thinking about a short domestic trip with him this fall. His trips are "luxury" but he does some less expensive options. He is starting to do some gay-only trips as well. His upcoming Portugal trip was mixed but so far everyone is gay so he's thinking about shifting that trip to a gay only trip.

He was just on a trip to Amsterdam and took a cruise line I'd never heard of before. I'm intrigued. As I get older, I am considering more small group tours that are personally designed - not tagging on to another company's options.

I know someone who is very well off and has always/ only used a high end travel agent. It's definitely "worth it" to have someone take care of all of the details and have a person to call to sort out any problems. My guess is those trips are close to the 10K per person range if not more. Suites at George V in Paris and at the Hassler at the top of the Spanish steps in Rome. Out of my price range, but I would love that kind of travel too.

"Maybe there are enough clients for businesses like this one who wants things arranged for them. "
Definitely.

A VERY wealthy friend (much younger than I) texted me last week asking me about "upscale tours" in Spain and Portugal. She's going to be my roomie on an Italy trip this fall - and she wants to do a luxury small group tour before. We shared a room last year in France on a small group excursion (pricey). She is crazy wealthy, so much so I can't imagine. After we parted, she was house hunting in the south of France. Seriously. House hunting. I offered my services as a house sitter. LOL. Anyway, I referred her to the luxury travel agent to see if he had any leads. There's plenty of "big money" out there.
This particular agency has a pretty modest storefront, on an old strip mall. Not many other businesses to draw people in so maybe they just have enough repeat customers to cover the low overhead and arrange their trips by phone.

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Old Apr 3rd, 2024, 01:49 AM
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Hahahahaha, Z! I LOVE it!
May it be so.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2024, 02:23 AM
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Originally Posted by scrb11
This particular agency has a pretty modest storefront, on an old strip mall. Not many other businesses to draw people in so maybe they just have enough repeat customers to cover the low overhead and arrange their trips by phone.
My friend's business is all virtual. He is associated with another travel company and I think all of that travel is luxury based. A few years I thought about asking if he needed help part-time after I retired, but now am not interested. I realized that most of his travel is "work travel" but he's younger and he enjoys it and I'm checking out his trips to consider for future travel. About 1980, the office secretary's daughter was a new travel agent and was flown out to the the new resort on the Big Island. It was almost 20 years before I actually stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa and I remembered the excitement from when I saw the photos of the resort, in particular the trams. She was no longer in the business by then and I realized I wanted to be a guest in the resort vs seeing it in a group of travel agents flown out for a working trip. I think it was easier for a travel agent to make a living 20 years ago, but definitely 40 years ago.

In 1990 (pre-internet), I planned a trip to England, Ireland and Scotland and it was a great trip. But Mom heard that a bank holiday was coming up and literally stepped into a travel agency as we walked by and had them book something for our last nights in England. We were "following our noses" for a lot of the trip - and that was fun - but she decided she wanted less risk for those days and had the person at the desk make a call and reserve something for us. I had booked our London nights* ahead of time (and the rental car for Ireland), but the rest of the trip was "flexible". I was a bit disappointed, the place was over my comfort level in price but it was nice and mom was happy.

Geordie - re calling -
"I sometimes hear the argument about people worried if there are issues with the flights, you could be stranded but in all the hundreds"
I think "calling someone" to take care of details is more a factor of everyday life for some. Even today, my friend who is an EA books all of the business travel for the executives she works with. I think for a large segment of wealthy travelers, they are used to calling someone else to deal with things that a lot of us deal with ourselves. They place a call to their accountant or financial advisor/ wealth management company to deal with taxes or money transfers. They call their personal assistants to deal with things we do on our own. It's not a numbers game. They aren't using a travel agent just in case something goes wrong. The travel agent makes recommendations and books travel... AND is on the other end of the phone IF something does go wrong.

Of course, I started traveling for work when the company had an in-house Amex travel office and that was really nice. Those days are long gone. Now it's more of using the in-house (contracted) systems, but if you need to talk to a person it was an additional $25 fee. Not the same as a travel agent at all. When there's a glitch with the executives' travel, they call their EA (my friend) and she works out the kinks from her desk in the office or from home if she's working remotely that day. When the family staying at a suite in the 4S George V decides they want to go to Disneyland Paris while on the trip, the travel agent and/or personal assistant is called and told about the change. While the family is out and about, enjoying time in Paris, someone else books the details and the info is waiting for the family at the end of the day when they return to the hotel. A couple of days later, they are off to Disneyland and everyone is happy. Most of us would book the details ourselves. Same process. It's just whether or not we want to pay someone to take care of Life's little details - or not.

Luxury travel agents are not booking hen parties and stag parties. A storefront travel agency may, but the clientele is different. This reminds me of the AAA office that used to be less than a mile from the Delta office near a suburban mall. Some people still use a AAA agent to book leisure travel. Some still go in to pick up their pre-ordered TripTik. I used to drive about 20 minutes to pick up my previously booked tickets at the Delta desk. SO much has changed. Pre-internet, I used to book lodging via fax. Crazy how much has changed.

Last edited by starrs; Apr 3rd, 2024 at 02:35 AM.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2024, 06:36 AM
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I use some one who calls herself a "travel planner," or "safari planner."
She does not book. international airline flights, but she sets up everything else when I go to Southern Africa.

I don't know how this service differs from what we in the US call a "travel agency."

This is who I use:

https://www.southerndestinations.com
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Old Apr 4th, 2024, 11:48 AM
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I have been in business of tourism since 1989 when there was no web in fact the truth is web has made the tourism extremly expanssive. We used to charge a fixed 15% before the web but now there is no limit. There sites like trip adviser and tour HQ and tour by locals their fees alone is 25% plus the tour operator and the guide charges over 50% so eventually due to the web I see the prices have increased and people are relying on rip offs like tripadvisor etc

Before we used to have a printed tariff which was made usually before 15th of December and the prices in my humble opionion were reasonable but now its jus quote whatever you like and poor tourists have no choice but to accept the price.
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 07:46 AM
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And here I am, trying to beat $1100 for a September flight to ZRH! 🙄
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 09:38 PM
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I am finding travel consultants more popular lately. Professionals who charge an hourly fee ($150/hr) to recommend towns, hotels, restaurants, what to see, tours, make train and taxi reservations for you. I'm not exactly sure of the difference between a consultant or agent.

I haven't used a travel agent in a decade. (Nor have I worked with a travel consultant.) But I recall the last time I worked with an agent, I wasn't charged anything directly; it seemed to be built into the prices of what I was booking.
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Old May 15th, 2024, 09:03 AM
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Most of the older generations still refer to travel agencies as their primary source. Especially those that aren't fluent in English. Some travel agencies offer Visa services and make it a one-stop shop for their travel back to their homelands. Even if their services don't offer 'great' deals for tech-savvy people, others may choose it for convenience.
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