Valley's travel industry starts to heal again after a devastating year

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A year after the pandemic first reached the Central Valley, business is finally picking up at Fresno travel agency Travel Shoppe.

"We are selling more than we are refunding now, so i am happy about that," said owner Cheri Verrastro.

Verrastro said 2020 was a tough year for most travel agencies.

The coronavirus forced them to cancel bookings, resulting in very little income flow.

The latest Air Travel Consumer Report shows that more than 102,000 complaints were filed against airline companies last year.

90,000 of those were for refunds.

Verrastro said this is why it pays to book through a travel agency.

"All of our customers through COVID, we were able to get refunds or able to extend their trip, but if you were out there on your own you don't even have the right line to get through," she said. "You can hold on the phone for three or five hours and you can never get through."

Of the complaints submitted last year foreign airlines topped the list with the most significant surge.

They went from a little more than 5,000 in 2019 to about 50,000 complaints.

Verrastro said when it comes to international travel, agencies inform customers of COVID-19 guidelines to better help them make an informed decision.

She said this is especially critical when it comes to testing.

"There are a lot of resorts in Mexico that will do the COVID tests for free at the resort so when you go back to the States you don't have to worry about it," she said.

With more vaccine doses rolling out and as we approach spring break, Fresno-Yosemite International Airport officials are expecting to see more travelers.

They've already been experiencing a 10% increase month-to-month.

"We are starting to see traffic resume and passengers traveling," said Vikkie Calderon, Public Relations Officer for the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport.
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