Holiday sales

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Weekend retail sales figures contain some good news for brick-and-mortar travel agents. While businesses across the board are doing boffo box office this holiday season, on-line shopping appears to be losing some steam as we move into December crunch time.

Can mom-and-pop storefront-agency owners come up from their bomb shelters to look for an Internet-free dawn? Get real. No, the news here isn't the death of e-commerce, it's some hard evidence of shoppers' commitment level: People trust the Web to a point, but when push comes to shove, they want their business done in person.

Agents can take two pieces of direction from this situation: First off, trust is still an important enough factor in the purchasing process to affect the delivery system buyers select, at least when it comes to last-minute buys. For agents, that means that travelers with 11th-hour needs are more likely to stick with an agent than with a Web site.

Second, the almighty Web still has some kinks left in it and buyers now have a sense of its shortcomings. That doesn't mean you can afford to ignore the Internet. On the contrary, it means that you are still in a good position to take advantage of it. Right now, people want technology, but they need people, and they know it. Give them both.

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