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Pursuits
Summer Vacation

Travel Agents Are the Heroes You’ve Been Looking for This Summer

A profession that the internet nearly killed is helping people make sense of a chaotic, overbooked travel season.

Tourists take selfies with the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles on Feb. 14.

Tourists take selfies with the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles on Feb. 14.

Photographer: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times

With pricing, lodging availability, and health requirements so unpredictable this summer, travel advisers are emerging as heroes for many vacationers. They’re being called upon to help find options and availability in clients’ chosen locales, or alternatives that might offer more value, in a year when demand has sent costs skyward.

Virtuoso, a global consortium for luxury travel specialists, reports a 50% increase from a year earlier in the number of people seeking its services. Jack Ezon, co-founder of agency Embark Beyond, says his business is 240% above pre-pandemic levels and has a staff that’s grown from 20 in 2019 to 150 today. Paul Tumpowsky, whose Skylark offers a mix of online booking and 24/7 human support, reported a 240% increase over 2019 figures last year, and is forecasting his company will double or triple those numbers in 2022. “People are learning to distinguish proper advisers from simple hotel-bookers—there’s a big difference,” Tumpowsky says.