by Karen E. Culp
House of Travel is getting into the money business. The local travel agency, owned by Linda Strait, is now able to exchange currency.
"If a customer places an order for currency before 2 p.m., we can get the order the next business day," Strait said.
An industry group introduced Strait to the idea of adding currency exchange to the travel agency's services. Strait was looking for a new niche for her business. Since airlines cut commissions to travel agencies last fall, the agency has been looking for new sources of revenue, Strait said.
"This was an area that was not being served in the community. Since we've started this, we've had a number of referrals from banks and others to our agency for this service," Strait said.
Strait has been providing the service since January and has been receiving about five calls per day concerning the service.
Though some area banks provide currency exchange, not many of them are able to get the requested money in the next day, Strait said. House of Travel will also buy back foreign currency, which is a benefit to both returning travelers and visitors who have come to the Ozarks from other countries.
House of Travel works with a company in Florida that also works with other travel agencies. The Springfield agency is able to buy the currency it needs in bulk, and therefore save its own dollars, Strait said.
"If we weren't able to buy in large quantities and save some money ourselves, we wouldn't be able to provide the service," Strait said.
House of Travel keeps four kinds of currency in inventory for travelers. Those four are Mexican pesos, English pounds, Canadian dollars and French francs. Though those are the most frequently requested currencies, Strait said she has had requests for Chilean currency and for some currencies from the Far East, including Indonesia.
"In a lot of instances, people have taken trips and have come home with some of that currency," Strait said.
Some individuals have come in with money they may have gotten from another country several years ago, Strait said. Sometimes House of Travel can help them, and sometimes not.
"In some countries, such as Mexico, there have been massive changes to the currency. There are some Mexican currencies that are out of print and no longer in circulation," Strait said.
Strait is hoping to attract international travelers to her business by offering this service. She is also hoping that the currency exchange will make things less hectic for travelers, she said.
"This means that there is one less thing a traveler has to consider. When he or she steps off the plane in London or Paris, that traveler knows that they have some money for a cab or a meal," Strait said.
Strait will begin giving presentations to groups, such as church and school groups, that will be traveling abroad.
"We can place an order collectively for that group's currency," Strait said.
House of Travel can get traveler's checks in foreign currency and can perform bank account drafts in a given currency for customers who need to make payments internationally, Strait said.
The travel agency gets daily exchange rates via a daily fax and then uses a computer program to calculate a traveler's exchange rate based on the faxed rate.
In late spring, the rates will be sent to House of Travel over the Internet, Strait said.
Buying the currency back is not a high-profit item for House of Travel, Strait said, but is a necessary component of the currency exchange.
"It takes us a lot longer to make our money back from buying the currency back. We can buy back and inventory that currency that we plan to sell. If we can resell that currency, then we are coming into contact with more international travelers," Strait said.
Strait said she hopes the addition of this service fills a need in the Ozarks area. "We just think there's a big need here that hasn't been met before," Strait said.
Strait and Nanette McCroskey are handling the actual currency exchanges for the travel agency. The travel agents are not making actual transactions, but are asking international travelers whether they will need currency when they arrive, Strait said.
'We just think there's a big need here that hasn't been met before.'
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