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Some Business Travelers Return to Travel Agents

As business travel continues a slow rebound, travel agents appear to be picking up a bigger slice of the business, according to the 2005 National Business Travel Monitor.

The report said 32% of business travelers surveyed used a travel agent to book at least one trip, up from 25% a year ago.

Researchers said the increase “is presumably a function of growing suspicion about the integrity of pricing for travel services across the multiple channels of distribution.” It also might reflect a reduced willingness “to invest the time required to shop for the best prices.”

But the Internet isn’t going away. Over two-thirds of all business travelers relied on the Internet or an online service to plan some portion of a business trip last year, and 54% booked at least one reservation online.  The annual report, by Yesawich Pepperdine Brown & Russell/Yankelovich Partners, is based on a survey of 1,200 active U.S. business travelers.

The data show 42% of travelers expect to take more business trips this year, while 24% expect to take fewer.

Among those taking fewer trips, the chief reason was “a cutback on my need to travel for business.”

Tourism analysts at PhoCusWright, an Internet workings specialists, predict more money will be spent this year in the U.S. booking leisure and unmanaged business travel online than offline. The online travel industry is expected to rake in $66 billion this year. Experts and consumers cite the ease and convenience of travel sites, which are available 24 hours a day; however, travel agents say they believe vacationers will continue to turn to them to arrange cruises, tours and other more complicated itineraries.

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