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Travel Agents Form Alliance to Compete with Internet

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RALEIGH — When it comes to booking airfares or vacation packages, many travelers are bypassing agents and heading to the World Wide Web. Travel agents in the Triangle are organizing to win back some of that business. "It hurts us right at the bottom line, so we have to find alternative ways to generate profits," says Susan Ferrell.

Ferrell is a member of the new Travelers Advocate Alliance, a creation of 10 agencies in the Triangle that would normally be business competitors.

The agents are working together to make money. They say they can offer travelers an indispensable service: their expertise.

"If you go to the Internet, the Internet is only going to give you questions -- answers to your questions, but it cannot talk back to you. A travel agent can ask questions, the right questions, and get you the best deal," says Tony Maupin.

Members of the new Alliance point to a recent study that shows travel agents get the best deals 70 percent of the time.

They say agents can give travelers first-hand information about resorts and be an advocate in the event of a travel problem.

They want the Internet to be a friend, not a foe. They use it for research, and they want travelers to do research on the Net, as well. They say after that, call the airlines directly, then call them.

The agents may charge a fee to book a flight, but they say their advice is free.


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