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Travel agents benefit from millennial reboot

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Barry Richcreek is owner of Richcreek Vacation Center in Linglestown. He has seen increased interest from millennials in travel services.
Barry Richcreek is owner of Richcreek Vacation Center in Linglestown. He has seen increased interest from millennials in travel services. - (Photo / )

When Angela Tatum decided to indulge her wanderlust and explore Ireland, she weighed her options and decided that timeless memories are too important to trust to chance.

After a bit of research, she and her sister, Anna, called Jason Holland at Travel Simplicity to handle the details of their cross-Atlantic trip.

The Mechanicsburg resident said that several factors played into the decision.

“We both were extremely busy — me with work and her with school. We also considered it an investment to ensure a smooth trip,” said Angela. The sisters gave Holland a budget and Holland offered options designed to meet the sisters’ expectations.

Sisters Angela (left) and Anna Tatum in Ireland in 2017
Sisters Angela (left) and Anna Tatum in Ireland in 2017 - ()

The Tatum sisters are not unlike other millennials who use their disposable income to invest in travel experiences. According to the 2017 Portrait of American Travelers by marketing firm MMGY Global, 33 percent of millennials who responded to a survey said they would use the services of a travel agent during the next two years, compared to Gen Xers (17 percent) and baby boomers (18 percent).

Numbers like these are encouraging to those who work in the travel industry.

Barry Richcreek, who has been operating Richcreek Vacation Center in Linglestown for 30 years, has seen the industry evolve over the years.

“Everyone said that the internet would destroy the travel agencies, but that never happened,” he said, adding that travel ranks high on the priority list for millennials, in particular. “Their spending habits are not much different than the boomers, although there is a contrast when it comes to communication,” said Richcreek, explaining that millennials prefer to develop a relationship via email, or text, at least in the beginning. “Eventually you have to talk directly to them to learn exactly what they want, whereas baby boomers begin the relationship with a phone call.”

You could also say that the internet has cultivated a generation of savvy consumers who have read the horror stories about people who have been duped by attractive pictures or enticing reviews, only to discover that reality is quite different from what is portrayed online.

Suzanne Wolko is a millennial from Philadelphia who has experienced travel first as a consumer, then as an agent and later as a blogger at PhilaTravelGirl.

“Travel planning can be stressful for many due to the overwhelming amount of choices, whereas travel agents who specialize in destinations already know the place inside and out,” said Wolko, adding that in the gig economy, travel is just another way that millennials can outsource their lives.

Wolko herself relied on a travel agent to plan a safari in Cape Town, South Africa.

“She knew the lodges that I never would have found online and arranged all the transit in between them,” said Wolko.

Another service that Wolko provides – one that many millennials take advantage of – is “award travel.”

“Many younger travelers would rather consult an agent who is skilled in points redemption, rather than deal with the hours of online research to find the winning itinerary available for points,” she said.

Like Wolko, Jason Holland started out as a travel consumer. But the York county resident, who has been in business for a decade, eventually returned to school to earn his travel industry certification and started Travel Simplicity, which is based in Fairview Township.

“We based our business on what we, as travelers, wanted at the time,” he said.

When millennials experience firsthand the ease of using a travel agent, many are hooked. According to the American Society of Travel Advisors, millennials are more likely than baby boomers, or Gen Xers, to say that hiring an expert was worth the investment. After her successful trip to Ireland, Angela Tatum reached out to Holland to arrange another trip, this time to Belize.

“Many millennials are more interested in experiences than the accumulations of material things, so for them, it’s an investment that is well worth the money,” Holland said.

Holland has even gone the extra mile for some of his clients due to his ability to forge relationships with people in the areas he has visited. The connections benefit his clients.

“We had clients who traveled to Iceland and, unbeknownst to them, I arranged for an Icelandic BBQ at one of my friend’s in-law’s houses,” he said.

Another time, Holland arranged for a 25-year-old client to borrow a $250,000 sports car for a day.

“One of my friends in Germany knew the guy who owned the car and allowed him to borrow it,” said Holland.

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