Cook Travel is merging its Southampton and East Hampton offices, starting Thursday, as the agency adapts to its both local and national clientele.
The Southampton office, at 36 Hampton Rd., which had served clients for more than two decades, will move to 20 Main St. in East Hampton. Being in one office will help the agency better serve clients remotely, the company said in an announcement earlier this week.
“Customers rarely walk in the office for travel help these days,” Cook Travel leisure specialist Audrey Lyons said. “Because of Google, our customers come from all over the country and all over the world. Most of them contact us by phone or email.”
Cook Travel has adapted in the changing world of travel booking, and has survived despite the success of online travel search engines like Priceline and Expedia. More than 10,000 brick and mortar agencies throughout the country in the past 30 years, the agency said.
The agency reported spending as much as $50,000 per month on Google to advertise high-end luxury travel, at a discount.
"We moved away from selling cheap point-to-point tickets to selling our expertise and product knowledge of international destinations and cruises,” Cook Travel’s resident Italy expert, Maryann Cicio, said.
On the South Fork, where locally owned stores and businesses are numbered, the travel agency has thrived. In fact, Cook Travel is one of the last full service walk-in agencies left on the South Fork.
Lorelle Fallon founded the agency in East Hampton in 1984, and branches in Greenport, Manhattan and Southampton followed.
“We’ve seen the other places come and go,” Cicio said, “but, we must be doing something right because we’re still here.”
Cicio, who has been with the agency for 13 years and has 35 years of experience, said the agency is hands-on, helping those who experience problems while traveling.
“For example, when there was a volcano in Europe, I had a man going to Ireland and he called me from the airport and I rerouted him to Rome instead. At least his vacation wasn’t a loss," she said.
They also use The agency uses special GDS airline software to access the airline’s own system.
Travel agents are competitive with online prices, often beating the published rate for airlines and cruise lines and significantly discounting rates for luxury vacation packages and premium international airline seats, they said.
Cook Travel has also been able to help travelers navigate through often complicated miles programs.
“We know everyone loves to have a conversation with a machine,” said Gisela Gale, an agent. “But it’s still nice to have a live agent, somebody they can get their hands on, somebody they trust. Life is changing, and we have changed with it.”
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