I remember the days when it wasn’t faceless online search engines that helped me find the best deals on flights, but real live people called travel agents. Ivica got me a great bargain to Croatia. Alla helped me maneuver domestic flights within Russia, with an unbeatable price. And Fanny planned my dream trip to China with expert ease.
Actually, it’s pretty easy to remember those days: they were just last month. Those trips were actually only tests — tests of the real-life niche travel agencies in New York City and elsewhere that serve specific immigrant communities, pitched against the popular Web sites — like Expedia, Kayak, Vayama — that have become go-tos for travelers.
The result: Nearly every time, travel agents bested the Internet big boys on both price (the objective part of the test) and service (what you might call the essay question). In other words, the agents suggested alternate routes, gave advice on visas and just generally acted, well, more human than their computer counterparts. (All research was all done in mid-January for trips in March.)
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