A pillar of the local travel agency business has decided to call it a career.
Greenville Travel, which owner Debbie Hoy says had been booking client trips since 1946, posted the news on the window of their Kennett Pike location in late April.
Hoy’s parents Frank and Jean Martinez bought the agency from its original owners in 1964, and Hoy herself “worked there on and off since I was 12 years old.” Hoy says Greenville Travel was oldest travel agency in the state.
Hoy had been planning to wind down the business and retire in the coming years but said the COVID pandemic’s impact on the travel industry “sped up the timing quite a bit. I guess things happen for a reason,” she said.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Hoy. “We’ve had great rapport with clients, luckily Linda has most of them now,” she said, referring to longtime Greenville agent Linda Ganakis, who is moving to Accent on Travel in Independence Mall.
Over the decades, Greenville Travel served generations of local clients, booking honeymoons for newlyweds and then anniversary trips for the same couples and their children and grandchildren. The agency booked every kind of travel – school trips, corporate events, trains, cruises and rental cars.
It has been a period where travel agencies went from having no computers and doing everything by paper or over the phone to today where consumers have instant access to so much travel information at the stroke of a key.
Hoy remembers handwriting airline tickets and mailing typed letters overseas to book guests at foreign hotels to eventually coping with an internet that has transformed the way people access information about exotic destinations as well as pricing.
Ganakis started with Greenville Travel when she was just 20 years old and has worked only there for the last 37 years. She says she and Hoy have had many of the same clients for decades.
“I’ve known them for years and years. I’ve dealt with them over and over for trips, and it was often a social thing — it’s exciting to plan a trip! Especially our older clients — they like to come in and sit down and see brochures and what we could show them on our computer screens. We would sit down with them and say, ‘Here’s your ship, here’s where the cabin would be.’ The younger generation is fine with sending them an electronic brochure,” said Ganakis.
The lifelong travel agent said the current environment is definitely challenging for the business.
“Every day I’m canceling trips and refunding, so it’s been difficult for all of us in the travel industry,” said Ganakis, noting the global pandemic hit just as the high season of spring travel was beginning.
At the pandemic’s outset, Ganakis said agencies were spending hours navigating airline cancelation policies and scrambling to get clients safely back home from Europe or cruises that dropped passengers at unplanned destinations.
Ganakis reflected on the reactions of travelers today in light of the period following 9-11 — a time when people were nervous about traveling and reluctant to travel internationally.
“So every time something like that happens, the industry has to evolve,” she said. “Domestic travel is going to be big this year and next year, because people are going to feel more comfortable traveling in the United States” because of the virus.
Ganakis said she was bringing a great group of active clients with her to Accent on Travel, where inevitably, when the immediate global health crisis passes, the human urge to travel will again be unleashed.
“Greenville Travel was very blessed to be where it was,” said Ganakis, noting there are many people who don’t want to spend hours on the internet researching and prefer to seek the advice of a trusted travel agent who can find exactly what they are looking for.
Ganakis also says she has successfully negotiated several refunds since the pandemic broke, something some consumers aren’t often prepared to handle.
Ganakis can be reached at Accent on Travel at 302-639-6565.