Changing Careers: Travel Agents - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Changing Careers: Travel Agents

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Rehoboth Beach, Del. (WBOC) - It's a cold and rainy day outside Accent on Travel in Rehoboth. It's the kind of day that makes you just want to get away.

Annette Nero-Stellhorn can help. She's been a travel agent for a quarter century.

"When I got into the business, people went to a travel professional for any vacation travel or business plans," she said. "You could not access the flights directly on the internet."

Expedia, Hotwire, Priceline - it's become very easy to make travel arrangements online. That ease has had a direct effect on travel agents.

"It's very different. There weren't as many options. We didn't even have computers. A lot of it was manual. Of course, it's evolved to the technology that's in every industry," said Angela Armutcu.

Armutcu has 35 years as an agent under her belt. She owns Jet Set Travel in Dover.

"We're a leisure agency primarily. We do a lot of vacation travel, work, family travel," she said.

Armutcu has four people in one office and would love to hire more. Nero-Stellhorn employs ten people full-time in two offices.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of travel agents nationally dropped by about half in the first decade of the 2000's. But the American Society of Travel Agents says those jobs didn't just up and fly away. Instead, the society says the number doesn't take into account more than 40,000 independent agents, who often work part-time from home.

Either way there has been decline, even if how much is debatable. The women agree the difference between sinking and swimming is providing what the internet cannot.

"The customer comes first, and you need to service them," said Armutcu. "Otherwise we are no different from the Internet."

"We have to bring to the table something they can't get themselves. Before they had no access, now they have access," Nero-Stellhorn said.

The kind of travel being worked on has changed for many agencies in recent years. Nero-Stellhorn says her business is 30 percent consulting. And the other 70 percent is split between group travel and cruises.

Nero-Stellhorn says "evolve or die" applies, and she's seen the latter happen to many agencies who couldn't do the former. If agents can keep evolving, they may very well be able to book their ticket to continued employment long into the future.

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