Business

Vashon Island Travel reinvents itself to fit the changing times

After serving Vashon travelers in the same location since 1994, Vashon Island Travel has moved as well as changed the way it does business.

The agency will now focus on service via the Internet and telephone, according to owner Ray Konrad.

“We plan to provide the public with equal or better travel services in our new setup but need to scale down costs, given the current business climate,” he said.

The business, which used to be right in town, is now located in a small office in the J.T. Sheffield Building, where Konrad and his three agents will be available by phone or can meet people at the office when needed.

Konrad bought the business in 1998 and has seen a lot of change in the travel business since then, he said. Airlines stopped paying commission to agents. Sept. 11 brought a downturn in travel. And the Internet era dawned: Many people now rely on it for their travel needs instead of turning to their neighborhood travel agent.

Konrad, however, maintains that the Internet is not always the best bet and that the rock-bottom prices people think they have found online may not, in fact, be the lowest. Agents have access to a different database, he noted, and can sometimes find less expensive options for people than they can on their own. Agents also have expertise in many areas of travel, which can be helpful when the itinerary is complicated or if both a flight and a rental car or other ransportation is needed. Using an agent also makes sense for people who may not be computer-savvy, he said, and even those who are comfortable with the Internet can have a hard time with some Web sites.

Vashon Island Travel is a full-service travel agency and handles everything from car rentals to cruises, he added.

Konrad was frank in his outlook for his business; he considers the move an experiment in these challenging times.

“The three agents are great,” he said. “We are going to try to provide a service to the traveling public on Vashon and keep our heads above water.”

To reach Vashon Island Travel, call 463-6871, e-mail vitravel@comcast.net or visit www.vashonislandtravel.com.

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