Make Way for the Travel Agents. Again.


Nicole Piatak, a nanny from Stow, Ohio, began working with Ms. Bendel in the fall of 2019 to plan her honeymoon, a six-day trip to Hawaii, in October 2020.

“I love travel and adventure, but planning can be very overwhelming and exhausting for me,” Ms. Piatak, who is 27, said.

When Hawaii closed its borders to tourists last year, Ms. Bendel took the reins rebooking her trip to January.

“Once a twice a month, I would hear from her with updates on the situation in Hawaii,” Ms. Piatak said of Ms. Bendel. “I was so upset that we weren’t able to go in October, and she just took all of it off my plate.”

While the outlook for 2021 is more promising, travel agents are still reeling from the devastation of 2020. According to ASTA, the average agency saw business crater 82 percent last year and it laid off about 60 percent of its staff.

“The first couple of months, travel advisers were cracking their knuckles, getting their headsets on,” said Erika Richter, ASTA’s senior communications director. “They were heads down, getting people home. Now, mind you, they weren’t getting paid.”

Barring booking fees, which can range from $25 to around $100, depending on the type and complexity of a trip, agents typically make money with commissions from cruise lines, hotels, tour operators, sometimes airlines, often months after the client takes the actual trips. When people aren’t traveling, agents aren’t making much, if any, money.

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