Travel agencies in Utah haven’t had reduced sales despite rumors that the Internet has taken over their business. In fact, agencies have reported increased sales for the past year.
Clawson Travel is one of the businesses that has held its own this past year. Brad Clawson, the owner and president, said that the agency located at 216 S. 1300 E., Salt Lake City, has had steady sales from 2013 to 2014.
“My clients are still traveling just as much as ever,” he said. His agency focuses on corporate travel, although he still accommodates his clients who ask for leisure trips.
As for why people should still use a travel agency, Clawson explained, “I can get better fares than what is online almost every time.” He said this is because he is permitted to place a hold and void tickets up to five days. This way, he can monitor the prices as they fluctuate and get his clients the very best deals.
The founder of Clawson Travel, Brad Clawson’s grandmother, Vida Fox Clawson, opened the travel agency in 1933, making it possibly the oldest travel agency in Utah. Clawson said he usually has about 10 to 13 employees in his office, and there are no plans for expansion. “We’re not trying to grow or shrink, [but] just continue doing what we’re doing,” explained Clawson.
Mark Faldmo, the president and co-owner of Columbus Travel, located at 563 W. 500 S., Suite 180, Bountiful, reported, “we were up last year about 18 percent.” He attributed the increase to “more focused marketing.”
Columbus Travel was founded in 2002 and currently there are 26 employees, which increased by about two in 2014, according to Faldmo. While the company does want to continue growing, Faldomo said he is happy with just the one office right now.
Christopherson Business Travel, located at 5588 S. Green St., Suite 300, Salt Lake City, “experienced a 33 percent year-over-year increase from 2013,” according to Mike Cameron, the CEO. He attributed the success to the agency’s growth formula: having the right people, the right value proposition, and the right incentives.
Christopherson Business Travel was founded in 1953 by Merrill and Lucille Christopherson. Mike Cameron and his wife, Camille, bought the company from them in 1990. “We added 40 new team members in 2014 (across five U.S. locations), bringing the total number of travel professionals employed by Christopherson to 365,” said Cameron.
Christopherson Business Travel continues to invest in new technology for clients. One of the latest examples is AirPortal 360 Mobile. “It’s the first comprehensive app created specifically for corporate travel managers and planners, and allows them to manage and maintain their business travel program even when they’re away from their desk,” Cameron explained.
Hess Travel, located at 150 N. Main St., Bountiful, has seen business rise by probably 10 percent, said CEO and owner Alan Hess. He attributed this to “avidly searching for new clients.” He also believes some of the rise has been organic, from clients’ personal business expansion.
Hess founded the agency in 1985 and has around 37 employees. The number of employees has stayed flat the past year. “We don’t plan on opening new offices because that’s not our model, and our business is nearly half outside the state of Utah, so, yes, we’re expanding by a vigorous sales and marketing effort,” he said.
“Ninety-five percent of what we do is managing travel for business. We manage more efficiently and better than companies could ever do on their own,” said Hess, noting that travel costs are one of the top expenses for businesses.
Toby Nash, the president and manager of Cruise and Travel Masters, located at 4376 S. 700 E., Salt Lake City, said that revenue had increased around 6 percent to 7 percent. She attributed this to the economy strengthening, and that more first-time travelers are putting money aside for trips.
The agency was founded in 1984 and has 40 sales agents. The number didn’t change from 2013 to 2014. She said, however, they “are always looking for new people (sales agents) to hire.” One of the misconceptions people have about the agency, she said, is that it has the ability to control wars, volcanoes, weather, etc.
Revenues have risen at Thomas Travel, located at 535 E. 4500 S., Salt Lake City. According to Monica Marshall, vice president, the agency sells a lot of river cruising and multigenerational leisure trips.
The agency was founded in 1951 and has 10 employees among the corporate office and three branches. The number has stayed the same, and there are no plans for expansion in the near future.
In Utah, it seems the myth isn’t true, that the Internet has taken all of the traveling agencies’ business. “Regardless of what happens with technology,” Hess said, “you just cannot replace someone who knows what they are doing.”