Travel businesses feel sting of attacks | SierraSun.com

Travel businesses feel sting of attacks

Jeff Clemetson, Sierra Sun

North Shore and Truckee travel agencies are feeling financial fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks as the airline industry slowly tries to fly back to normal.

“We took a big hit, especially right after it happened because we refunded so many tickets,” said Kerry Causey, a travel agent with Incline Travel.

Causey said Incline Travel refunded 97 tickets in first week after attack. And although she said business has picked up since then, she is worried that decisions by major airlines to further cut flights could keep business slow. United cancelled all Reno/Los Angeles flights for the month of October and Delta is considering pulling out of Reno all together, Causey said.

Carolyn Rose, a travel agent for Truckee Travel Inc., said there were some “isolated incidents” of customers canceling entire trips the week after the attack, but more just rescheduled cancelled flights.

Most of the cancellations were people going to Europe.

“I think it is because of the fear of the unknown when they get over there,” she said.

“I’ve been canceling, rescheduling, canceling and rescheduling over and over again,” said Mary Hunter, a partner in Lake Tahoe Travel. “It’s been a horrible two weeks for us.”

And in more ways than just a decline in business. After the attacks, Tahoe Travel couldn’t book one of their clients on a flight home from Annapolis, Md., to be with her father who was dying of brain cancer. Hunter said she tried booking flights from airports across the country as the girl hitched rides from college friends and friends of her family.

“She couldn’t be beside her father when he passed away,” Hunter said.

But not all has been bleak for the Tahoe City travel agency.

“The most amazing part is that our clientele is sensitive to our position,” said Kathleen Glace, a Tahoe Travel partner. Many of her clients, Glace said, have opted to cancel trips but leave their money with the travel agency as a deposit on future vacations.

Another aspect that the attacks had on the travel agency business is that online purchasing of plane tickets has become more difficult and some people have returned to travel agents to book flights.

“I’m having people coming back to me now, wanting to know my opinion,” Glace said.

Travel to North Tahoe hasn’t been “significantly affected,” said Pettit Gilwee, spokesperson for the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

After the attacks, two convention groups cancelled and others postponed, Gilwee said, but in an informal poll taken the weekend after the attack, resort businesses in North Lake indicated they were “doing OK.”

Gilwee said Tahoe’s travel business wasn’t greatly affected because many visitors to Tahoe are the “drive market” that doesn’t fly.

But, she said, getting tourists to come to Tahoe in the wake of the attacks is a concern and agencies like the NLTRA are preparing for a slow-down.

“Sept. 11 presented some unique circumstances and we’re being strategic and waiting to see how this all pans out,” she said.

One of North Tahoe’s premier events that draws fly-in destination visitors has seemingly been unaffected by the Sept. 11 attacks. The Tahoe Marathon is expected to draw about 7,500 people – more than last year – and no one has cancelled so far, Gilwee said.