Nittany Travel Agency closes downtown store
Will continue to operate agency remotely
LOCK HAVEN — Another long-term downtown business has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nittany Travel Agency announced recently they would continue offering their services remotely from home, moving from their physical location on the corner of Main and Grove streets after 30 years.
Owner Ray McGill, who in 1977 responded to an ad on a matchbook for The Boyd Travel Institute’s training program and began what today, is known as Nittany Travel.
After working as a customer service agent and supervisor for a regional airline serving Philipsburg and University Park airports, McGill moved to Texas and worked for three travel agencies before moving back to PA to work for Nittany Travel.
Since then McGill, through acquisitions and building sales grew the company to its peak of $10 million in sales with a total of 42 employees working in six locations. The company currently employee’s seven people and up until the recent events caused by the virus has been operating from 143 E. Main St. in Lock Haven.
With more than 40 years in the travel business, McGill has seen much in the form of change in the travel industry from financial down-turns to airline commission cuts and of course the enormous affects of the 911 attacks on our nation.
“After all those events, I never expected another that would affect so many small and medium businesses like COVID-19,” McGill said.
Travel has been one of the most affected due to the virus, with travel bans to parts of the world, including the United States, airlines and resorts operating at 10 percent load factors/ room occupancies and other ancillaries supporting travel.
“Covid-19 has perhaps had the worst affect on our industry,” McGill said.
Nittany Travel sales over the first five months, have hit an all time low of about 10 percent of normal sales.
“Given this, we had limited options. One option was to just close down. However, after much thought, working from home was the better option and so we have made that move,” McGill said.
“The virus is the definite cause of this,” he said, referencing another time he attempted to move to a home- based operation.
“A couple of year’s back I did try to move to home-based and everyone in my staff was willing to do it,” he said.
That was until the customers took note of the sign in his window.
“I got 100 phone calls,” he said.
This hasn’t been so in 2020.
“The attitude is different now because a lot of people are working at home,” he said.
McGill doesn’t expect travel to fully return to normal until next year at the earliest.
“I don’t see travel coming back fully until next year. We’re already booking people now but it’s not nearly to the extent we normally do,” he said.
The bookings remaining in place are dependent on the virus.
“I would say the fourth quarter this year we’ll see quite a few bookings for 2021 but that’s dependent on whether we see this (virus) coming back,” he said.
Although they will no longer be open to walk-in customers, they still will provide all travel related services such as, airline, hotel, tours and vacations, cruise lines bookings and information as to passport and visa requirements.
“We are sad to leave Lock Haven because we’ve had a very good relationship here,” McGill said. “We have provided refunds to our customers that had money with us and have contacted travel vendors that were/are unable to provide service due to Covid-19 to refund money our customers paid to them
McGill leased his office space from Sean and Dana Krieger and Reality Lease, who he said were good landlords and would lease again from them.
“The Krieger’s worked well with us,” he said.
“That space is available now for rent. It’s probably the best corner in Lock Haven to rent,” he continued.
McGill stressed that, although the physical location is gone, Nittany Travel is still very much in business.
“The company is not closed, the company is moved to home-based,” he said.
Nittany’s main number, 570-748-6611, is still active with customers able to choose a specific agent or wait for the first available one.