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Economy affecting the way we travel

Summertime is usually the time of year for travel and vacations, or is it?

With the economy supposedly on an upswing more and more Americans are looking into traveling again. Some local travel agencies are seeing an upswing in people booking for vacations, some even into next year.

“We have seen more people booking farther out in the year because they are trying to wait out the economy. The cruises are normal business because of the cost and people can use payment plans,” said Winchester Travels owner Rita Strauser. “There have been an increase in shorter trips to Branson instead of places farther away.”

People are still traveling but they are changing the mode of travel and their ways of booking. If people have an idea of where they would like to go, well the hotels offer deals. However, the air fare hasn’t adjusted to the way the economy is right now.

Strauser said she has had some inquiries about Amtrak travel. The railways are becoming more popular because of the price of air travel. She also added that it costs about the same price to fly as it does to ride the train.

“I have seen a lot of people staying more in the states than traveling outside,” added Strauser.

The travel agency owner says she has seen an increase with travel to Las Vegas because of their deals on hotels, as well as Greece and the Dominican Republic. She has seen a slip in the trips to Cancun. She believes its because of the coverage of flu and violence in the news.

David McFarland, owner of McFarland Travels, said “The business has dropped off about 15 percent from what it was last year. However, the first three quarters of the year hold steady but the last quarter slows down because it is the off season.”

The biggest sellers McFarland is seeing right now is Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Disney World and cruises. He adds that people are choosing Disney World because they can drive to the destination.

Cruises leaving from Texas, Alabama, and New Orleans are more cost-effective for people because they can easily make the trip to the departure port by car.

He also suggests going through a travel agent because they have channels available that others may not have, and it doesn’t cost anything to shop around for prices.

Bill Robbins, owner of Robbins Tours Inc. in Marquand, has seen a decrease in travel with his company. He said the economy has affected the extended bus tours. His company has had some shorter trips go out, but for the most part have canceled the longer trips such as Northern Wisconsin and Panama City.

“People are cutting back because they think they can’t spend a lot right now,” Robbins said. He added that a trip going to Yellowstone National Park is still going but the numbers are down.

Awesome Sunsets World Travels is an Internet-based agency where people can go online and view and not have to leave the house.

Cheri Pritchett is the owner of the travel site and said last year was somewhat slow up until December. It got busy because everyone was wanting to book for the week between Christmas and New Year’s. She adds that January through April were busy with people booking for the summer time, but it’s leveling off now and slowing down some.

She attributes the decline to the economy, and admits “consumer confidence has come back. We have good specials and bargains. There are some dirt cheap specials right now trying to get everyone back to traveling.”

Pritchett said she has also noticed a lot of people driving to vacation destinations. Disney World is popular right now because everything is right in the park.

Destin, Fla., is also popular with people because of the ease of access. Branson is also a close one that is popular because of the shopping and shows, and people can plan their own schedule.

“If people want to get out of the economic slump, travel is a good way to do it. If you go within the states it keeps money here and regenerates,” Pritchett added.

Mindy Huffman, of Bahr Travel in Crystal City, said “… we do get a lot price shoppers. Every time new numbers come out for the economy the number of callers picks up.”

She said people use the Internet a lot to book travel, but by doing so you don’t get the face to face interaction. You don’t get the knowledge an agent can give you about a hotel or the area. Another drawback is if you have to cancel you may have to pay fees that agents can help you with. Agencies can also sometimes match most deals on travel.

According to the Associated Press, one concern some travelers may have is a new passport law that went into effect June 1. It says that American citizens must have a passport or obtain a special drivers license to re-enter the United States. The special drivers license does not work for air travel.

“Mexico, Dominican Republic and cruises have been popular even with the change to passports. However, if it is a loop around cruise leaving from an American port people can still use their birth certificates and drivers license to reenter,” Huffman said.

For local ideas on travel and sightseeing, the Farmington Chamber of Commerce has a Missouri vacation planner and travel brochures to help with vacation planning.

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