Hire a travel advisor to plan your dream vacation

In 1996, Microsoft established Expedia, one of the world’s first online travel agencies. Suddenly, people who had been using the World Wide Web for email and chat rooms also could use it to make air, car and hotel reservations.

It seems almost quaint now. Back then, however, it was a revelation.

Travel agents were on notice: Like cobblers, blacksmiths and lamplighters, they were about to become obsolete.

But travel agents — or travel advisors, as they call themselves — didn’t disappear. Instead, they adapted.

“One of the things I hear all the time is, ‘Oh, I didn’t know travel advisors still existed,’” says Laurie Marschall, owner of Lakáma Luxury Travel in Phoenix. “There aren’t as many travel agencies with storefronts, per se — most of us work remotely — but we are very much still here.”

It’s a good thing, because demand for travel advisors has soared in the wake of COVID-19, according to the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA). Before the pandemic, just a quarter of travelers (27 percent) always or often used a travel advisor, according to ASTA. After the pandemic, 44 percent say they’re more likely to use one.

ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby points to Americans’ growing appetite for travel — there are more than 143 million U.S. passports in circulation today compared with just 7.3 million in 1989 — but also to pandemic-related difficulties with trip planning.

“Consumers have awakened to a very challenging travel ecosystem, so it pays to have a really good travel professional on your side who understands all the new and ever-changing restrictions,” explains Kerby, who asserts there’s at least one more reason travel advisors are making a comeback: The Travel Channel and social media have made travelers crave trips that are more elaborate, more active and more exotic — and, therefore, more complicated to plan. “For fairly simple trips and trips to places you know well, (online travel agencies like Expedia) are a really great resource. But for other trips, travel can be a very complex web of suppliers and schedules. … Travel professionals can help you navigate all that.”