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Published: Thursday, 1/23/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Travel agents welcome cold

Business stays brisk as people eager to get away, bask in sun

BY CHIP TOWNS
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

When the weather gets colder, business heats up for travel agents.

“People are definitely wanting to get out of this weather,” said Joy Hammer, the manager of Central Travel’s office in Sylvania. “It is definitely helping our business.”

Stacy Bateman of Stacy’s Travel in Monroe agrees.

“We’ve been crazy busy,” Ms. Bateman said Wednesday. “People come in and say, ‘What kind of a deal do you have and where can you send me?’ ”

While the weather adds a strain on AAA’s emergency road service, “on the travel side, it is just awesome,” said Sue McCloskey, executive vice president of travel at AAA of Northwest Ohio.

“I’ll pay anything, just get me out of here,” is a common sentiment according to Ms. McCloskey.

Ms. Hammer said Central Travel has seen an increase in people planning last-minute trips.

Some know where they want to go, but many don’t.

“Some can be very specific about destinations, although sometimes that changes as we talk. Other people have a state in mind or a particular part of the country,” Ms. Hammer said.

Florida and Mexico are among the top destinations, Ms. Hammer said, while noting that the lack of a passport limits the choices for some people.

“People are looking for value, which normally is Mexico for a lot of reasons,” Ms. Hammer said. “But a lot of people have been there before and just want to go back.”

She said she’s had other customers come in and say, “Anyplace in Florida, I just need someplace warm.”

Ms. Bateman said January is always a busy month for her Monroe travel agency, but the rush started earlier than usual this year.

“It started started with the first snowstorm, when [Lucas County] had the Level 3 snow emergency,” Ms. Bateman. “I told my people we’ve got to make it into work because we’re going to be swamped.”

Ms. Bateman said last-minute travelers often favor Florida, but her office also has been booking a lot of trips to the Virgin Islands and to Las Vegas.

“People just want to go anywhere, and it’s not even just for right away,” she said. “They’re booking for the summer or the fall ... they just want to travel.”

AAA’s Ms. McCloskey agreed that many travelers are planning ahead, but her company is also helping people make last-minute travel plans.

“Going someplace sunny just recharges your batteries to face the rest of winter,” she said.

She said Florida and Mexico are among the top destinations, but also mentioned Arizona, San Diego, and Hawaii.

“And cruising continues to be a very good value,” Ms. McCloskey said.

While the idea of last-minute travel can seem exciting, air fares often put a damper on the idea. Planning a trip weeks or months in advance usually saves money.

And travelers need to remember that even normally warm places can go through cold spells.

For instance, the high in Miami is predicted to be 64 degrees today, although they are expected to rise into the low 70s this weekend. Orlando, Fla., isn’t expected to get out of the 50s until Sunday.

Of course, when the temperature at home is in the single digits, that doesn’t sound all bad.

Contact Chip Towns at: ctowns@theblade.com or 419-724-6194.



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