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Online travel purchases continue to grow

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Mar 23, 2008

Everyone knows what it's like.

You call the credit card company to ask a simple question about your bill, but you're forced to navigate an extensive path of numbered menus for a question that would take merely seconds for a person to answer.

"If I'm going to pick up the phone and dial, I want to talk to someone," said Jane Folsom, who hates automated systems.

With a world overrun by automated systems, people are still choosing to book their own travel online, bypassing the human contact and customer service of a travel agent.

Last year was the first year in which more travel was purchased online in the United States than off-line, according to a recent consumer travel trends survey.

The Phocuswright 2008 Travel Industry Trends report predicted the shift to online travel purchasing to continue as more shoppers decide to do more shopping over the Internet.

But what does that mean for the traditional Fort Collins travel agencies in an overall travel industry of almost $3 billion?

Local travel agencies say business is doing well as they draw off of those customers who still want good customer service and human interaction.

Booking online doesn't eliminate all travel-agent interaction, said Folsom, owner of Destination by Design Travel Company, 140 W. Oak St.

"(Booking online) doesn't mean I'm still not able or willing to help someone," she said.

Along with that, a travel agent or people in the agency have often traveled around the world, giving the advantage of being able to tell potential travelers about what it's really like, said Barbara Lambert of Bon Voyage Travel, 825 S. Shields St.

"If you want someone to take care of you, we're here," Lambert said Friday morning. "We have the experience. (Online) you don't know what the property looks like or what it entails."

Travel agents also are more knowledgeable to handle complicated itineraries, Folsom said. Travelers still want help booking those complicated trips and opt to pay for a travel company's service to do so and reduce the hassle.

"The marketplace is still going to agencies," Folsom said.

coloradoan.com

Online travel purchases continue to grow
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