Bokoff back in the travel business
Norwich — Marc Bokoff started his career in travel a year out of college, and at one point had seven offices in the region with 37 employees before selling out in the midst of the Great Recession.
Now he's back in the travel business again after five years of running Crown Market, a kosher food store in West Hartford.
He currently runs a Cruise Planners agency out of his home in Norwich, helping travelers book vacations around the world — both on land and at sea. It's similar to what he was doing as head of the former Bokoff-Kaplan Travel Agency after buying New London-based Kaplan Travel in 1996.
"The use of travel agents is significantly on the rise," Bokoff said during an interview at Muddy Waters Cafe in New London. "The amount of information and misinformation on the Internet has created all kinds of opportunities for travel agents."
Bokoff, now a Cruise Planners franchise owner, said people are saving time and money by using travel agents. Agents are very adept at finding deals, negotiating upgrades and using travel bonus points as well, he said.
Cruise Planners has the nation's most extensive group of home-based travel agents, and its affiliation with American Express means special deals for clients, including upgrades and special amenities, Bokoff said.
"I am a one-man band," he said. "I am in the rebuilding process as clients find and reconnect with me."
Bokoff still recalls the era when travel arrangements were made largely without the aid of computers and people needed to meet one on one with agents for extended periods to book a trip. Now, people are well informed about what is available through the Internet and most of the consultations are done over the phone, he said.
"Almost no one comes in anymore," he said.
Bokoff said the travel industry has changed a bit since his last association with it. He has had to become familiar with the latest cruise ships, and spent time in Florida during January doing tours and inspections, a trip he plans to repeat in April.
"To me, experience and knowledge is what I am really selling," he said. "My job is to make sure the client gets what's coming to them and gets the best deal and has the most enjoyable, memory-filled vacation they possibly can."
Bokoff said a lot of consumers have come to rely on Trip Advisor ratings and comments online, but the problem is that everyone has disparate experiences so it's tough to know whom to believe.
"The advantage of the travel agency is that in many instances the product has been vetted, checked or seen by an independent agent or agent representative," Bokoff said.
Bokoff said a big trend in the travel industry revolves around multi-generational trips, but baby boomers are by far the largest part of his business. Cruising is huge, he added, and Bokoff himself has been on more than 40 shipboard trips, which he said are a great way for families to reconnect.
"I like working with people," he said. "I like taking ideas and then turning it into reality."
Who: Marc J. Bokoff
What: Cruise Planners franchise owner
Where: 88 Weber Farm Road, Norwich
Phone: 860-608-6095; 844-768-2799
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