Last week, Avanti Travel celebrated its 20th anniversary with about 200 clients, family and friends at an open house where the travel agency gave away pairs of airline tickets from Delta, Continental, Northwest, American, Southwest, and United Airlines, including a grand prize trip for two to Rome.
“We thought that was appropriate since Avanti is an Italian name,” said Curtiss Brown, co-owner and president. “(The late) Gerrit Maris came up with the name when the three of us were forming this travel agency.” she said. Brown, Maris, and Dr. Faser Triplett were the original owners; Brown and Triplett remain partners.
Even though the official date of establishment was Aug. 1, the open house was moved up “to a more weather-pleasant time of the summer,” she said. “It’s a little difficult to find people those first two weeks of August because of last-minute vacations before kids go back to school. Besides, it is so hot! We thought it would be a little more pleasant to have an open house now.”
Locally owned Avanti Travel specializes in incentive travel, group travel, leisure travel, corporate travel, business meetings and conferences. In addition to its home office at Three Lakeland Circle in Jackson, Avanti Travel has three satellite ticket printer locations in Louisville, Jackson and Oxford.
“A key factor that has distinguished Avanti Travel is the highly skilled level of professionalism in the office staff and clientele,” said Curtiss Brown, owner. “Avanti has very little turnover and has very experienced agents. Over the years, we have provided an enviable record of performance on behalf of the companies and individual travelers we serve.”
Perhaps the Avanti staff of 26, “likes working in a fast-paced, crisis-laden business,” she said, with a laugh. “We are a team here. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. One may be fast on the Internet, another may be a little more sociable and slower on the phone.”
Travel agents are often thought of in the same category as doctors, lawyers and other professionals, she said.
“People begin to create bonds with travel professionals,” she said. “They know they will be taken care of and they gravitate toward the agent that their personality best suits. After 34 years in the travel business, I’ve learned that the people who work here are Avanti.”
Brown’s travel career began at the ticket counter of Eastern Airlines in New Orleans in the mid-1960s.
“After the big strike in 1966, I returned to Jackson and worked for Trans Texas Airlines (TTA), which eventually became known as Texas International,” Brown said.
As the only female working for TTA in the region, Brown was furloughed in 1969 when the company announced cutbacks, “because, in those days, women couldn’t work baggage and operations,” she said. “It’s a totally different story now.”
After almost two years with Rightway Travel, Brown joined Globescan for eight years prior to opening Avanti Travel, she said.
“We opened Avanti Travel the year after deregulation,” Brown said. “At that time, everybody in the industry was worried because the travel business had been turned upside down. We survived that better than others, I suppose, but deregulation can’t hold a candle to what has happened so rapidly since 1995.”
Caps on commissions and other restrictions have made it difficult to “make a living as a middle man,” she said.
“If I did not believe that people still want to talk to people and get a professional answer or recommendation, there would be no reason to stay in business,” Brown said.
As a result of the changes, travel services are priced differently, she said.
“We don’t dare go out and advertise that our services are free, because that has been rendered impossible,” Brown said. “Travel agencies are still huge distribution systems for the airlines, and agencies are running more volume through than ever before but making a lot less money.”
“Even though everything has gone high-tech, I still believe there’s a place for personal service,” Brown said.