Travel agents are making a comeback

Jenny Henderson from Montrose Travel talks with a client about travel plans. A study said that travel agents are reporting booming business.
(Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times)

Don’t count travel agents out just yet.

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.


The surge in business for travel agents may be a sign that Americans—encouraged by an improved economy and higher home values—are turning to travel agents to plan more intricate vacations, according to travel agents.

“You book an airline seat or a hotel online,” said Jay Johnson, owner of Coastline Travel Advisors in Garden Grove. “But if you want to do something more exotic like go to Buton in Indonesia, you want to talk to an expert.”

The rising demand for travel agents prompted Johnson to hire two more employees in the last two weeks.

“We have never been so busy,” he said.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.