Turners Falls travel agency closing after 32 years

  • Mary Greene and Debbie Wilcox of the Cruise & Travel Co. in Turners Falls, which is closing by the end of the year. Greene is retiring, and Wilcox is joining a travel agency in Northampton called Pioneer Valley Travel. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 10/22/2020 2:57:24 PM

TURNERS FALLS — After 32 years of working in a home office on Montague Street, travel agents Debbie Wilcox and Mary Greene are closing their company, Cruise & Travel, by the end of the year.

The travel business has changed drastically over the course of their career, but Wilcox and Greene say their company has remained healthy by maintaining strong relationships with customers, and providing personalized service that a larger company wouldn’t be able to do.

“We were very fortunate and had a lot of loyal customers,” Wilcox said. “We gave good customer service, so it came back to us.”

Greene is retiring, and Wilcox is joining a travel agency in Northampton called Pioneer Valley Travel. They emphasized that the closure of their company was not caused by the pandemic.

This month makes exactly 32 years since Wilcox and Greene began working together. For the first few years they worked in a different office in Turners Falls. But in 1993, Wilcox converted her garage into an office, and they have worked there ever since.

They credit the coziness of the home office as a contributing factor to their success.

“It was the ease of people coming here,” Wilcox said. “They didn’t have to worry about parking spaces. They just pull into the driveway.”

The biggest change in the travel business in that time has been the advent of the internet, they said. For one thing, all documents used to be exchanged physically; now they are simply emailed.

“We hand-wrote airplane tickets,” Wilcox said. “We handed people boarding passes. They got paper airline tickets. So that’s changed drastically from when we first started.”

Moreover, many of the services traditionally provided by a travel agent can now be done online, without help from a professional.

The one element that wasn’t replaced by computers — which Wilcox and Greene credit as an important part of their longevity — is customer service. They pride themselves on finding better prices than their customers could have on their own, creating manageable itineraries and meeting customers’ unique requirements.

In some cases, a customer absolutely must have an aisle seat on a flight. Some want the fastest connection between flights possible; some want time to relax between flights. A travel agent can coordinate those aspects.

Although, Greene mentioned — “Non-stop is always the preference.”

Their customer base is almost entirely from Franklin County, they said. Sometimes, they said, when a customer moves away, they will still call Cruise & Travel for travel plans, after they’ve gotten used to their style of customer service.

Winter is typically the most popular time to travel, they agreed, with Disney World always being a popular destination, even in the summer. Cruises and guided tours of Europe have always been popular, too. In the warmer seasons, Alaska is an especially popular destination.

“When it got to be winter time, people wanted to get out of Dodge,” Greene said.

Since the arrival of the internet, Wilcox said, there are probably fewer small, local travel agencies like Cruise & Travel. But Wilcox and Greene’s customers have valued the personal attention of a small agency.

“We always did the best for our customers,” Wilcox said. “We befriended a lot of our customers. After 32 years, some people have been doing business with us for that long.”

Reach Max Marcus at
mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.

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