One would think with all the travel arrangement tools available online today, travel agencies would not have enough of a market to keep going. But people like the personal touch and getting questions answered by professionals, according to David Hoar, co-owner of Travel Corner in Williamsburg
The number of travel agencies in Williamsburg declined from eight to four with the advent of online travel and the recession of 2008, according to Bill Reinagel, co-owner with his wife, Theresa, of Above and Beyond Travel in Williamsburg.
“At first people gravitated toward online travel. But inevitably they had a bad experience because they did not read the contract or realize their ticket was non-refundable,” Hoar said. A travel agent explains all those things to their customers.
Most people are looking for guidance. They may know where and when they want to go someplace, but not the ins and outs of booking trips. Travel Corner started 30 years ago and has three agents in-house and five independent contractors. They all have their strengths. For instance, Hoar’s co-owner, Allyson de Haven Harris, likes river cruises. If someone is interested in river cruises, Harris is the one to talk to. They offer complete travel planning from start to finish.
“No one is on commission in our office so we put people together with the right agent,” Hoar said.
Most people book for the winter months in the spring or summer. But come winter, they are dreaming of sunny beaches and warm climes, so they will book now for summer or fall, both Hoar and Reinagel agreed.
“We rarely get last minute travel. After the holidays, people are looking for summer trips to Europe or a cruise,” Hoar said.
Reinagel said his 2019 calendar is starting to fill up.
Above and Beyond Travel opened 12 years ago in Williamsburg. It was first known as Cruise Holidays, but changed names two years ago. They also offer complete travel arrangements but they only book airline tickets as part of a complete package.
Cruises and resorts are most popular. The Caribbean is still a good destination although itineraries changed after the hurricanes that wiped out much of the Virgin Islands, St. Maarten and Puerto Rico.
“People are trying to get away from the cold. They want something tropical,” Reinagel said.
Some peopl opt for more exotic places. Both Hoar and Reinagel said Iceland is becoming a popular destination as well as Central and South America. Safaris to South Africa are also popular, according to Reinagel.
But no matter when and where you want to go, these two travel agencies will put your interests first and help get you the best deal they can.