STA Travel faces tough competition from Internet

Daily Sundial

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Hundreds of students walk in and out of the Matador Bookstore Complex every day to eat, buy books or play arcade games, but not everyone notices a small store at the front of the complex: STA Travel.

At STA Travel, originally called Student Travel Australia, students can purchase airfare and travel packages to almost any city, state or country in the world that has an airport.

The business has been on campus since 2002, and branch manager Federique Nijenhuis said she hopes students will check it out more often, which is tough considering her competition.

“Students usually go online to buy their tickets because it’s easier for them,” Nijenhuis said.

With online resources like Travelocity and Expedia, the online world of travel may make it even tougher for STA, Nijenhuis said.

Elizabeth Ruiz, junior Chicano/a studies and child development major, said she travels three to four times a year to Chicago and prefers to buy tickets from STA’s competition.

“I like it online because I can compare prices,” Ruiz said. “That way, I can do everything myself.”

STA also offers the same services online as other companies do, such as organizing travel packages and comparing prices to other travel packages offered by competitors.

“You can go online and reserve a ticket or package, and then come here the next day to buy it,” Nijenhuis said.

“We beat the prices online about 80 percent of the time, and provide excellent support and service you won’t find online,” Nijenhuis said.

Depending on the location, students can save between 10 and 50 percent on their travel reservations with their student ID card, Nijenhuis said. When students present their ID card, they are provided with illness and accidental travel insurance and can save money on airfare and get discounts at places, such as restaurants and museums worldwide. The student ID card not only benefits students by allowing them to save money and get special deals, but it also allows airlines to be more flexible with students when they want to change reservation dates or times, Nijenhuis said.

Despite having the packages and discounts for students, STA Travel only turns a profit three or four months each year, which is decent business, Nijenhuis said.

Some students said they prefer to buy tickets from other agencies.

Umon Sakai, senior computer science major, said he flies to Japan twice a year and usually goes to a Japanese agent to buy airline tickets.

“It is easier for me to talk to them,” Sakai said. “I don’t go in there because everything is expensive at CSUN. I assume it is expensive.”

Daisy Gallardo, junior CTVA major, said she did not see much of a difference between the prices at STA Travel and online companies.

“I went to get a price and it was practically the same thing,” Gallardo said.

Luis Morales, senior real estate major, said he usually travels twice a year to Mexico and barely noticed the STA Travel store until a year ago. He went in to get an estimate on a flight to Guadalajara and found the price to be cheaper than he thought, which he said encouraged him to visit the store more often.

“It’s really convenient,” Morales said. “I should have done it earlier.”

A vacation for students is not the only thing STA has to offer, Nijenhuis said. STA also handles study, volunteer and working abroad trips, she said.

STA Travel replaced the Council Travel agency in 2002 in the bookstore complex. Council Travel was STA’s biggest competitor until it went out of business, Nijenhuis said.

STA Travel then took over all the branches once owned by Council Travel, including its store at CSUN. The company chose CSUN because the store was in an area in which large amount of students go in and out on a daily basis, Nijenhuis said.

The number of students who attend CSUN also contributed to STA Travel’s decision to open up its store at CSUN, she said.

STA recently celebrated its 25th year anniversary of existence and currently has more than 400 branches worldwide, with more than 100 in the United States and Canada.

STA Travel locations are mostly found on college and university campuses, Nijenhuis said. STA also has stores at UCLA, USC and San Diego State University.

Oscar Areliz can be reached at city@sundial.csun.edu.