Roundtrip to a rebound
Forget what you think you know about travel agents.
They are alive and well, even though many voyagers turn to the internet to make their own travel plans.
That’s because many customers — especially businesses whose employees must travel for work — still find value in professional agents who know how to find the best deals and how to secure assistance during emergencies away from home, according to Shaun Balani, CEO of Travel Time Travel Agency Inc.
Travel Time, which has offices in York and Lancaster, ranks at No. 88 on this year’s list, up from No. 97 the previous year. Its revenue increased by 8.49 percent, to $29.39 million.
The firm had lost ground to the internet, but about 70 percent of that loss has been recovered over the past five or six years, Balani said.
The good news for Travel Time, which was founded in 1977, is that its workforce of 32 has been stable, and has many experienced veterans.
The bad news is that replacements for those veterans are becoming somewhat difficult to come by.
Fewer young people are looking to pursue careers in the field, Balani said, “because of the perception that travel agents don’t exist anymore.”
For Travel Time, word of mouth from current employees is the best source of referrals for new employees, Balani said. Sources within the travel industry also have helped, he added.
What helps keeps turnover low?
Balani believes staff empowerment is critical, especially when it comes to making on-the-spot decisions to aid customers on the road.
That empowerment is one of the factors that has kept Travel Time agent Heidi Clymer on the job for nearly three decades.
“If I run into a problem and I know it costs money to fix, I have the authorization to solve the problem for the customer,” said Clymer, who handles corporate travel accounts.
Clymer now works remotely from her home in Georgia, but the New Holland native started with the company in the 1980s she lived in Pennsylvania. Clymer left in 2001 when a job transfer for her husband took her to the South.
Looking to return to work seven years later when her oldest son was in college, she reconnected with Balani. They met at the Atlanta airport, while both were en route to other destinations, “and he offered me the job,” Clymer recalled.
She enjoys building relationships with clients and with coworkers, who help each other with tips and advice.
“Everybody gets along and we all respect each other,” Clymer said.