Actual Human Beings Now Booking Travel

How do you explain a 10% bump in leisure and business travel booked through traditional agencies that are staffed by real people? Two reasons:

1. Emerging from the wreckage of the global recession, the travel industry is picking up steam. In both 2010 and 2011, there’s been a 10% increase in bookings through traditional travel agencies. Their bookings account for a third of the $284 billion U.S. travel market. In 2009, however, things were really grim, nearly hopeless: bookings through brick-and-mortar agencies plummeted 23% that year. But as the economy goes, so goes corporate travel.

Here’s where it gets interesting…

2.  About the convenience and immediacy of booking travel online? Turns out it’s a drag for many people. It’s way too time-consuming and there are simply too many options. Time-consuming? In a survey of 2,000 travelers, Steve Peterson of the I.B.M. Institute for Business Value found 20% complaining that it took them over five hours to search and book travel online. Almost 50% of respondents said they spent more than two hours booking travel. “It’s come to a point that it’s too much information to be confident that they have the ability to book the lowest fare,” or uncover the best place to stay, says Peterson. “Consumers are hungry for that one-and-done shopping experience.”

And to think that for over a decade, we thought that flesh-and-blood travel agents would go the way of the dinosaur. Turns out they’ve mastered the very technology that was supposed to bring about their extinction, providing around-the-clock service via text, email, instant messaging, and social networks. The rest of us don’t have the time to book our own travel anymore.