An article by yours truly published in The Capital Times today explores how a Madison area STA Travel agency is surviving in an age of digital do-it-yourself travel arranging:
The booming popularity of Web sites offering rock-bottom airfares, along with the plethora of Internet travel resources and do-it-yourself guidebooks, have drawn many students away from traditional travel agencies.
But despite this trend, a local branch of a world-wide agency continues to flourish at the University of Wisconsin campus.
Liz Carr, 25, is the manager of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Union office of STA Travel, a global company that has carved out a niche in the industry by focusing on student and adventure travel.
Carr is well aware of the stigma that the term “travel agency” has come to carry — conjuring forth images of vacation packages where every step is planned to the minutia, and of middlemen charging large overhead fees. A reminder of the lure of the Internet as a travel resource can be found just up the stairs from Carr’s office, where the UW-Madison Travel Center once was — it closed on June 8 after 30 years of operation.
According to Susan Dibbell, an assistant director for the Union Leadership Team, the center closed because of a dramatic decrease in demand over the past five years. Students were no longer coming in to research their trips or buy travel packages, she says, because they could find what they needed online.
But Carr says that, in the year-and-a-half she’s been with STA, she hasn’t seen any decrease in clientele. She admits that the company as a whole had focused a lot more attention on their Web site, but that they’ve worked hard to preserve human interaction — even if it’s done online …