Travel Agents Lauded in Wake of Blizzard

The blizzard that rocked the Northeast U.S. on Christmas weekend didn't do travelers any favors, but it did show just how valuable travel agents can be, even in the age of book-it-yourself travel.

Joe Sharkey of the New York Times on Tuesday wrote about the value of travel agents amid the snow-related travel disruptions. Although Sharkey admitted he hadn't used an agent since the days of the Jimmy Carter administration, he talked to travelers who steered clear of problems with the help of their agents and agents that were able to maneuver their clients out of delays in quick fashion.

The Times isn't the only publication trumpeting the value agents can add to travelers' experiences:

• Looking into 2011's top travel trends, USA TODAY noted that travel agents are poised to make a comeback. Laura Bly wrote that travelers are looking for the guidance and context that an agent can provide when booking a trip.

• Charisse Jones of USA TODAY wrote recently about travelers' turning to agents in greater numbers to avoid the complexities of booking entire itineraries on their own.

• The Rome News-Tribune reported this past summer that travel agents in Georgia saw more business than usual this past summer. Reasons for the resurgence included personalized service, and in some cases, better prices.

USA TODAY's Gene Sloan wrote in his Cruise Log about how important a travel agent can be in the case of a cruise trip gone wrong. Sloan cited recent cruise problems such as the Carnival Splendor fire or the Celebrity Century rudder malfunction as instances in which a travel agent might have come in handy for seafarers.

• Fast Company's Expert Blog featured a piece on how "Offline Is the New Online," making sure to focus on the value of live travel agents as compared to online travel vendors. Michael Valkevich espouses the human and personal touch travel agents provide when travel gets tough.

• The volcano ash saga European travelers suffered through in spring 2010 only reinforced the value of travel agents. Travel Agent's George Dooley spoke with Billy McDonough of Liberty Travel, who stressed the advantages of having an agent to turn to in case of emergency.

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