Argosy Travel celebrates 50 years

Sparta. Local travel agency hits the half-century mark during a time of reduced travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though travel for 2020 appears to be dead due to the pandemic, owner Nancy Parker is focusing on bookings for 2021.

Vernon /
14 Jul 2020 | 10:54

Nancy Parker is well known throughout the area as president and travel consultant of her business, Argosy Travel, Inc.

The agency is celebrating 50 years in a time filled with travel restrictions and an elusive, highly contagious virus with neither a vaccine nor a cure. Her faithful staff is working from home and loyal clients are waiting it out until a travel resurgence is allowed.

“There are travel restrictions now, so we are focusing on re-booking for 2021,” Parker said.

Over the years, Argosy has seen ebbs and flows in the industry, but said Parker, “Nothing like this.”

Her focus is on resilience, staying safe and encouraging others to wear masks and social distance to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and facilitate the return to travel.

Parker had been a Spanish and English teacher in Verona in the 1960s, then taught the same subjects at Newton High School. The couple’s daughter was born on March 17, 1965, in the old Newton Memorial Hospital.

“When my daughter was born, I wanted part time work and always being interested in other cultures and travel, started to work as a travel agent,” she said. “After a few years of training and a wonderful mentor, I started my own business.”

The year was 1970, the location was Stockholm and the name Argosy came about because at the time, the only other travel agency around began with a “b” and Parker wanted to be first in the phone book. Her first partner was Newt Thompson who passed away.

In those days, you could only have two travel agencies in one location, Parker said. But there was a caveat.

“Airlines let us open an agency in Sparta [with more agents], so we moved to the location where we’ve been ever since in 1973,” Parker said.

As used by Shakespere, the word Argosy refers to a flotilla of ships operating together under the same owner. Appropriately, Parker’s fleet of agents has weathered storms and thrived during calm seas together over the years.

“911 was a tough time for the travel industry, but we knew things would come back,” Parker said. “It was also a major impact in the 90s when airlines stopped giving commissions. Most people thought computes impacted travel agencies because people wanted to do their own bookings, but in reality, it was the airlines stopping commissions. A whole sourse of our income went out. We transformed the agency and stopped doing commercial business travel and switched to strictly leisure travel. The year 2019 was our best year ever.”

Then COVID-19 hit, and Argosy Travel found itself in uncharted waters.

“A number of bookings from 2019 for 2020 were already in and deposited,” Parker said. “My staff is all working remotely from home, but I am going in every day to try to protect those bookings and roll them over to 2021. In reality, travel for 2020 is dead, but people are looking to rebook and hopefully travel in 2021.”

Over the years, Argosy’s forte has been independent tours all over the world.

“Our knowledge and experience has made us successful,” Parker said. “We have wonderful clients that have used us for years, their families and new people who have been recommended or have searched us out, We have survived. Every week there is another challenge to the bookings we already had. We cancel, we re-book, we rollover credits for new bookings and we fight like you know what to get refunds from the airlines which our clients deserve. Even in this new environment we have tricks of the trade. Our clients have to be patient but they know we have their backs. We do the remedy so they do not have to.”

Like most, Parker is not quite sure what the future holds

“We will be back in whatever form it takes to continue planning journeys with wonderful clients,” she said. “We have the best knowledgeable agents , the best loyal clients. Even in a pandemic Argosy Travel is blessed.”

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the location where Parker taught, which is Verona and not Vernon, and to clarify that the limit was two travel agencies in one location.