The Internet offers a plethora of travel sites, notably Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline. Travelers can plan and book a trip in a matter of minutes, and travel planning over the web has consequently had an impact on travel agencies.
According to the 2005 edition of “Travelers’ Use of the Internet” issued by the Travel Industry Association of America, 79 million Americans searched for travel information online and 82 percent of those bought tickets, booked hotel rooms, rental cars and package tours online.
However, the Internet, and the decrease of airline commission to travel agents for selling tickets, has not completely crushed the travel agent industry. A 2007 report by the American Association of Travel Agents shows 51 percent of all airline tickets, 87 percent of all cruises, 81 percent of all tours and packages, 45 percent of all car rentals and 47 percent of all hotel stays (booked from the U.S.A) were arranged by travel agents both directly and online.
Several factors contribute to preference of travel agencies over the Internet. Many travelers with multi-destination trips believe agents handle them better than do-it-yourself planning on the web.
Some travelers prefer the personal interaction and the ability to hold someone accountable, or to have a contact, if an element of the trip goes wrong. Travelers also prefer to know exactly where their money is going and in many cases, prefer to speak to a person instead of giving credit card details online.
Members of the industry claim that it is not only older travelers who seek a travel agent’s expertise but also younger people, such as newlyweds, who ask for honeymoon arrangements, and independent travelers that seek alternative tourism options.
In the case of older travelers, detachment from the Internet is the key reason behind opting for a travel agent’s services. However, to an increasing majority of travelers, the plethora of Internet information in many cases overwhelms and makes the process more difficult, thus travel agencies become the viable option.