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Travel Agency Thriving by Providing Personal Touch
 
Published Thursday, March 9, 2017
by ERIKA COHEN

Booking a trip couldn’t be easier in the age of Google, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and the myriad of other travel discount sites, right? Who needs a travel agent anymore?

It turns out plenty of people still do because, for some, planning a vacation feels more like taking on a second job. Among those catering to this desire is bookbettertravel.com in Goffstown. Business at the travel agency has increased 400 percent over 2015 and the company is now hiring 15 new full-time people over the next six months to join its staff of five.

“I discovered it’s an interesting line of business because a lot of people don’t know what travel agents do until they try to book their own trip and then they are on 35 different websites who all say they have the best price,” says Sara Locke, owner of bookbettertravel.com. “I’ve been to these resorts. I know how the airlines work, and I know more airport codes off the top of my head than I ever thought I would. It’s stuff like that.”

Locke’s company, which started from her house in 2013, has four divisions: Vacationisms Worldwide Travel (resorts, travel abroad, cruises and general vacation travel), Weddings and Honeymoons by Vacationisms Worldwide Travel, Elite by Vacationisms Worldwide Travel (full concierge service down to itineraries and making dinner reservations) and Thumbtack Worldwide Travel (business travel).
Locke says the romance division generates the most revenue, but business travel is the fastest growing. In total, the company has more than 700 clients.

While many travel agencies help with vacations, both traditional and luxury, Locke says the business travel market is dominated by a few major online players (including Egencia and Concur) that do not offer much personal service.

“It wasn’t really available, having a personal touch in business travel,” she says. Thumbtack plans individual business travel, conferences, events, sales incentive trips, annual retreats and executive retreats, for which it partners with other businesses. It is now partnering to offer a mindfulness cruise retreat for business executives. Businesses pay a monthly fee of up to $700 to access the agency’s services.

Business or pleasure, Locke says clients stay with her for the same reason: a personal connection. “We form very personal relationships. I personally work with about 135 clients, and I know them. When they call me they don’t say their full name. I know where they went on their honeymoon and where their next business trip is ... If someone comes in booking their honeymoon, the next thing you know I am booking their business travel too. Instead of a 1-800 number, they have a person.”

To learn more, visit bookbettertravel.com.


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