Travel agent Steven Elliott will show you the world from his office in Kenmore. A walrus tusk from Canada and a hunter’s spear from Kenya are just some of the mementos collected over the years by members of the Elliott family. Each keepsake has earned a place in the Elliott Travel Agency on Delaware Avenue, where thousands of Western New Yorkers have planned their vacations since 1974.
The father of three grown children, Elliott talks proudly about his Buffalo roots and the education he received at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School. Elliott, who is 59, lives in Tonawanda. A member of Friends of Ellicott, he plays an active role in the Ellicott Creek Island Bark Park.
People Talk: How often do you travel?
Steven Elliott: Twice a year for 50-something years. My parents were travel agents, and they took me and my sister when they traveled. We were always traveling. As an adult it was difficult. I was a single dad since ’96. I raised three kids. Leaving the kids alone or with someone to go to Europe was not in the cards.
PT: What kind of travel motivates people in Buffalo?
SE: The all-inclusive package – all your flights, transfers, meals, hotel bill, everything. Pay one price, you’re done. People want to know exactly what their vacation will cost them.
PT: Are cruises overrated?
SE: Cruises appeal to people who don’t mind huge crowds, expensive drinks and shore excursions. They can be wonderful: You only have to unpack once. You know where you’re having dinner, and you don’t have to be on a bus at 7 a.m.
PT: What is the main cause for delayed or canceled flights?
SE: The weather in the East. We know not to send someone on JetBlue through New York in the middle of winter because they may never get to where they’re going at all. The airlines create huge problems by cancelling lots of flights. They all have the Chicken Little syndrome.
PT: How did 9/11 shake up air passengers?
SE: Immediately people were afraid to go anywhere, but after a month passed we had people coming out of the woodwork looking for deals. People in Buffalo are tough. They’re going all over. They are going to the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is dangerous, so dangerous you can’t leave the property.
PT: If you weren’t a travel agent, what would you be doing?
SE: I like construction, gardening. I could run a nursery. I went to Hutch-Tech. They taught me how to do pretty much anything. I can weld, rebuild computers.
PT: Do you book corporate travel?
SE: No. Corporate travelers think they are the most important people on the earth and you make so little money from them that they are the least important people to a business. They’re very demanding. “Mom and pop” are the most important travelers. They will be back every year – maybe once or twice a year – to take that really nice vacation. They keep us in business.
PT: Do you use expedia.com?
SE: I prefer Funjet Vacations because they’re almost always less expensive, and they have great no-bump contracts with the suppliers, the hotels.
PT: How many hours a week do you work?
SE: I support a dog park. I had a dog, Cezar, who passed away recently. I spend from 10 to noon or more at Ellicott Creek Island walking a dog and working in the park. I probably work here 20 to 25 hours a week.
PT: Why do today’s travelers dress so casually?
SE: That is a very difficult question to answer. We’re getting into people’s values. They want comfort. They don’t want to dress the way they should to be treated better.
PT: What is the safest seat on a plane?
SE: Old-school travelers will tell you the last seat because in a crash the tail breaks off. I don’t worry about it too much. I do pray on the way up and on the way down. Those are the most dangerous times.