Traveling remains for many people both a confusing and traumatic experience. Nowadays, travel, especially a vacation trip, requires careful planning and large expenditures of money. The days when a vacation for a black family, couple or single person meant simply a trip down South to visit the relatives are rapidly coming to an end.
But trips abroad or even excursions within the continental United States often necessitate extensive arrangements of plane, ship or train reservations and tickets, hotel accommodations and ground transportation. Now, with so many routes opening up and so many people traveling, the airlines have started a whole wave of promotional fares that attempt to make traveling easier and more economical for the ordinary working person. However, a side effect of all these discount deals is that the prospective traveler frequently becomes lost in the maze of choices presented. An alternative to going it alone is to take advantage of the free consulting services of a travel agent, who can help break down all the available options into some language that you can understand.
The basic functions of a travel agency are to take the worry and aggravation out of planning a trip and to provide you with as many amenities as possible. In the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere of an agency, you can ask questions and take all the time you need to make sure you understand your entire vacation package.
To get a more complete idea of what a travel agency offers its customers, ROUTES spoke to Louise Baskerville, Vice-President of Gi-Gi Travel, 846 Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn. Louise explained that a travel agent’s services range from making the simplest of suggestions to mapping out the most complex excursion tours. According to her, the services of an agency are limited only by the wishes of a customer. For example, if you plan to travel on a complex itinerary, you may think that you have to call five different airlines before going from here to California then on to Hawaii and then to Tahiti. But in reality you only have to contact one airline or travel agent. Within a matter of minutes, an airline reservation clerk or a travel agent, with the assistance of the airline’s computer and the agent’s special red carpet desk, can inform a person of the availability of a particular flight from now until December.
To anyone accustomed to traveling from city to city within the United States the time spent at a travel agency may seem wasted. It sounds simple enough to pick up the phone, call the airlines and make one’s reservations. But the important thing to remember is that the travel agent has no allegiances to any particular airline or other transportation company. Thus, the agent plans your entire itinerary in light of all the options open to you.
Because of their knowledge and experience, travel agents can offer suggestions and alternatives that assure you a first-rate vacation within your budget. One popular cost-cutting measure is taking a vacation at an off-season time, such as visiting _the Caribbean in the summer. The travel agent also knows which places [like Freeport, Bahamas, Los Angeles or Dakar, Senegal, etc.] offer discount coupon books and deductions on meals, transportation, sightseeing and souvenirs. Instead of having you spend large sums of money on taxis and car rentals to explore the sights of your destination, the agent may recommend an advanced purchase of a one-priced rail pass. Such passes, offered in Europe and in many other areas of the world, give you the freedom to travel wherever you want at very reasonable rates.
In our interview, Louise further suggested that budget-conscious travelers may want to take advantage of off-the-beaten path tours, so as not to incur the expenses contingent upon stays in the major metropolitan tourist meccas. Planning a vacation to destinations where the dollar remains strong was another excellent economizing strategy forwarded by Louise. Parts of Central and South America, Portugal and Canada all fall into this category. When I inquired about vacation packages under $500, Louise mentioned a Thursday to Sunday or Sunday to Thursday Las Vegas plan which starts at $339 per person and The Best of Barbados — a seven-day vacation on the island that costs less than $500.
Getting you there is only half the service a travel agency can provide. In most instances, your travel agent will have already visited your destination and can therefore suggest inexpensive restaurants, smaller hotels which are apt to have lower room rates and sights of special interest to the black traveler.
The black traveler is the main focus of the Gi-Gi travel agency. Louise, a member of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), has been trying to impress upon the industry and the media that Blacks are traveling more and spending more money than ever before. Louise stated, One can always spot a trend by following the routes of the black vacationer. This year, cruises seem to be the hottest ticket in town.
A by-product of Alex Haley’s Roots has been a resurgence of interest in Africa — the Motherland. Louise enthusiastically related, I have booked some people on a special package offered by the Senegal Government Tourist Board called International Weekends — an inexpensive trip from New York to Senegal. The African American Institute also sponsors economical six-week trips to various parts of Africa. Since the airfare to Africa is still comparatively costly, a charter flight seems to be the best way to visit the continent. Louise stressed the many advantages of arranging a chartered trip through a travel agency. If you are not taking a chartered trip, you might run into all types of problems. Hotel accommodation requires time-consuming correspondence. Sometimes a person is well on his way to his destination before receiving a response. Journeying from one African nation to another is an additional problem alleviated by taking a chartered tour.’’
Although most travel agencies perform the same basic services, all reputable agencies should have the ASTA insignia on display. Furthermore, their agents should hold IATA and ATC appointments which enable them to write both domestic and international tickets. Of course, one of the best methods of deciding on an agency is to consult with friends and relatives about agencies they might have used. Good agents establish good reputations.
A vacation’s short duration and high cost call for a maximum of enjoyment and a minimum of aggravation. A carefully prepared trip should remove from the vacationer’s shoulder the apprehensions and anxieties elicited by journeys to new cities, countries and cultures. The role played by a travel agency should reduce the many problems of travel or, at the very least, equip the tourist with ways to cope with the unexpected. To paraphrase a well-known slogan, see a travel agency and leave the planning to them.
Services of a Travel Agency
- To arrange transportation, whether it be by plane, ship, train, bus or auto.
- To handle hotel, motel or resort accommodations.
- To make arrangements for dining, sightseeing, entertainment and conveyance of passengers and baggage to and from hotels and terminals.
- To coordinate itineraries and tours and to vend prepared package tours.
- To make reservations for religious pilgrimages, conventions, business trips, student tours and sporting trips.
- To handle or give travelers advice on various aspects of contemporary travel, including visas, passports, luggage, insurance, foreign currency, traveler’s checks, apparel, climate, health precautions and language study material.