Metairie-Based Travel Agency Overcomes Industry Challenges, Continues to Grow

METAIRIE, La. — Travel Central, a Metairie-based travel agency, is celebrating 35 years in business.

The company began in 1988 as a three-person operation in a small space above a law office. Since then, thanks to the emergence of internet-based travel tools, the number of professional travel agents nationwide has dropped by 59 percent, according to travel industry news site Skift. 

Bucking those trends, Travel Central has continued to grow for the last three-and-half decades. The company now has 24 employees working in its own building near Causeway and West Esplanade — and it claims more than $12 million in annual travel sales. The company collects professional fees from clients and may also receive commissions from travel partners.

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Melinda Bourgeois, Travel Central’s owner and president, said the enterprise has endured by adapting to challenges inside and outside of the industry. Decades ago, her team conducted business over the phone and hand-delivered paper tickets to customers. Then along came huge technological advances — in the form of fax machines and email. Clearly technology has come a long way since then. Today, the company has completely adapted to the digital age, even offering customers a complimentary mobile app with itineraries, vouchers and destination guides.

Download 1Ironically, Bourgeois said the key to Travel Central’s long-term success has been offering a level of service that goes beyond what technology alone can offer.

“Unlike the average travel booking website or automated phone system, we will take the time to get to know you and your family, making sure your vacation is perfectly tailored to your needs,” she said. “As experts, we can offer you knowledge and firsthand experience, but just as importantly, you will enjoy our exclusive offers and the satisfaction of getting the best value for your vacation.”

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Bourgeois said her customers also benefit from her team’s resources and connections, developed over decades in the industry. And Travel Central can advocate for clients in case problems arise before, during or after travel.

Interestingly, the company’s typical customer has changed over the years. The business used to be focused on business travel, but now the vast majority of its clients are leisure travelers. 

“We sell customized trips, cruises and guided vacations to Europe, the Caribbean, Alaska and Hawaii, among other places” said Bourgeois. “Younger travelers want the service, but Boomers of course have more time and affluence.”

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Travel Central will host an anniversary celebration — complete with food, drinks and games — on Aug. 15 at its Metairie office. The Jefferson Chamber will lead a ribbon cutting at 4:45 p.m.

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