In the day and age where we turn to the internet for everything, a new survey shows that more and more people are turning to travel agents to book their trips.
According to a survey produced by AAA Travel in August, roughly 75 percent of Americans would consider working with a travel agent to plan their vacation and about 27 million plan to do so within the next year. About half of Americans also said that working with a travel agency would ensure a smooth experience for a more complicated trip that includes different tours and activities.
The survey also found that millennials are just as likely as baby boomers to turn to a travel agency to book their vacations.
“Whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, first time overseas or an annual family getaway, travelers want to make the most out of any trip, so we are finding that many are relying on travel agents to ensure that happens,” Ragina Cooper Averella, manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic in Townson, said in a news release. “Although travelers today have countless options when booking their vacations, they recognize the value of working with a professional, experienced travel agent to make sure there is a return on their travel investment and a lifetime of memories to be made.”
According to AAA, travel agents save time on booking trips, offer expert recommendations, reduce stress related to vacation planning, can help with unexpected issues that arise when traveling and are knowledgeable about where to travel and when.
“Even when staying stateside, travelers can benefit significantly from working with a travel agent,” Averella said. “These knowledgeable professionals can help ensure a smooth travel experience from simple trips to more complicated and expensive vacations, and can help arrange special activities and experiences.”
Linda Cleveland, manager of Antietam Travel in Frederick, agreed with AAA’s survey and said more people utilizing travel agencies is due to certain downfalls with the internet.
“The internet is so confusing and [people are] not sure what they’re dealing with,” she said. “They want, with us, the personal service and the experience and [they want to] know who they’re turning their business over to. I think that’s the most important part right now, is to know who you’re dealing with for that trip that they’re planning.”
She, too, found that millennials are turning to Antietam Travel.
“Millennials are planning more short trips,” she said. “And they want to do lots of trips along the way. But if they want to do anything extensive, or particularly international, they’re using travel agents.”
Although travelers can book easy trips and airline flights online, anything with cruises, tours and flying in and out of multiple cities can get very complicated and stressful when done over the internet.
“When you’re piecing everything together bit-by-bit, hotel-by-hotel, air-by-air, city-by-city, that is when you need the experience of a travel agent,” she said. “It’s not so easy to do on your own.”
And she said with millennials, they want experiences that offer different tours and trips that cater to their interest.
Recently a tour company, owned and operated by millennials, opened in Frederick and provides just that.
Olivia and Molly McShea started Livalit Travel that provides trips for millennials and works with Instagram, the popular photo and video-sharing social networking site.
Livalit’s clients include Instagram influencers and adventurists. Those adventurists travel the world and usually have hundreds of thousands of followers that want to partake in their experiences. Through Livalit, a tour is planned that caters to followers who want to do and experience what that particular Instagram influencer does and then the influencer promotes that trip through their Instagram account.
Molly McShea said the tour company recently booked a trip to Sri Lanka for an influencer, under the Instagram name Mountain Chick, and her followers that consist of female adventure enthusiasts.
The company works with about 10 different Instagram accounts to book trips, but they also work with small companies.
McShea said she is currently working with Crisafulli’s Cheese Shop in downtown Frederick to book a trip to Holland and Belgium. Travelers who sign up for the trip will visit different cheese factories and explore the cheese culture there.
She said the company is successful because a lot of people want to go where the Instagram influencers go, and the influencers want to include them but they don’t have the capacity to plan a trip for their followers themselves.
“It’s completely curated just for their market,” she said.
The two sisters plan the itineraries for the trips, which allow 10 to 18 people for each trip, and they cater it to whatever the theme of the Instagram adventurist is involved in, like craft beer in Europe for example.
“It’s been working really well so far,” she said. “Our clients find that it’s a really neat way to meet their followers and to take something that’s such a heavy online experience and has an online interaction to offline. That’s huge for them, especially when they want to build their followers and make more of a connection than just being another page that you follow.”
The tour company has about 15 trips planned for 2019, and all of the trips have a local guide to help travelers get the local experience.
“Instagram is a great way to share pictures,” she said. “People see it on a platform like Instagram and they want to go there. The more that people go there, the more they see it and they want to be a part of that experience.”
She added that the popular social media site is a great marketing tool and a great way to figure out places to go.
“I think millennials are looking for more curated experiences,” she said. “They want to do something different and obviously have their Instagramable moment. They don’t just want to go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower, they want something more specific to their interests and that’s something that we’re able to do.”