Vacations are just a click away

Sara Macho

Web sites more popular than travel agencies for students

Bill Westover, general manager of Portgage Travel, shows off brochures for vacations students might be interested in taking.

Credit: Andrew popik

William Shatner, a little gnome and a catchy dot-com song are taking the mystery out of booking hotels, air fare and vacation activities.

The Internet is quickly becoming the travel agency’s greatest competitor.

Prentiss Brown says he feels travel agents are affected by the Internet more than any other business.

Brown, owner of McNeil Travel Service in downtown Kent, said the travel agency business had to re-make itself entirely after purchasing airfare online gained popularity.

With just the click of a mouse, Internet users can find flights for as low as $75 round-trip and book hotels and rental cars at the same time. All users need to do is supply a departure and arrival location and passenger ages.

Using the Internet can be a cheaper and quicker route when it comes to making travel arrangements. Many travel agents may find themselves rapidly losing business because Internet convenience is easier than personal interaction.

“Going online to purchase airfare is so much easier,” said Kendra Dushac, sophomore dance education major. “The Internet is more accessible and offers more choices.”

But Brown will tell Dushac otherwise.

“I deal with travel 10 to 12 hours a day,” he said. “I can find a customer bargains and offers.”

The benefits of using a travel agent don’t stop there.

Bill Westover, general manager of Portage Travel Service in Kent, can offer a customer special privileges. Westover can supply clients with cruise upgrades and special handling for that “added extra touch.”

Travel agents also provide consumers with years of experience.

“We have personal experience from many years of making plans,” Brown said. “Travel agents know what works and what doesn’t.”

Who uses a travel agent?

Although travel agents give customers their knowledge and experience, many still opt to use the Internet for travel.

For Ryan Neubig, saved him a lot of money on his spring break vacation. Neubig is visiting Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland. He found a one-way ticket from Akron to Frankfurt for $450.

“The Internet is always cheaper,” Neubig said. “It’s just more convenient to go online.”

So who is booking vacations through a travel agent?

Westover said the university has a need for his business. He makes arrangements for professors and other university faculty who are attending out-of-state seminars or speaking engagements.

McNeil Travel Service primarily caters to families, honeymooners and education-related travel.

The end of an era?

McNeil Travel Service has been in business for more than 25 years, Brown said. The business tried advertising on campus, but found it did not bring in more customers. Brown said he feels that the Internet may be taking business away.

“There’s no doubt some people are planning vacations themselves,” he said. “They’ll go online, but usually find tickets at a higher price.”

Westover said travel agents have an advantage over individuals using the Internet to make arrangements.

“You can’t book everything online,” Westover said. “It’s always nice to be able to come to someone who can help.”

But many college students don’t feel the need to book vacations through an agent.

“There will always be someone who wants a travel agent,” said Nelle Roberts, freshman exploratory major. “But for me, it would be more of a hassle because I can just go online.”

Some students feel using a travel agent is a more high-class way to book a vacation.

“I think rich people use travel agents the most,” said Ashley Lanning, junior American Sign Language major. “The more common way is going online.”

Internet or Travel Agent?

When it comes to planning a vacation, Kent State students seem to rely more on the Internet. With 3,550,000 hits for “cheap airfare” on, and only 11 travel agencies listed in the Portage County Yellow Pages, the Internet may be taking over the vacation planning experience.

“I think the Internet is the more popular way to plan a trip,” said Chasity Swinehart, sophomore integrated health studies major. “In the next 10 years, there might not be any travel agencies left.”

Contact features reporter Sara Macho at [email protected].