Travel agencies began losing their monopoly on the industry during the late 1990s, when airlines began to sell tickets online and travel giants like Expedia.com exploded onto the scene, quickly gobbling market share by introducing the quick, do-it- yourself model.

In 1995, there were 37,000 brick-and-mortar travel agencies, according to the American Society of Travel Agents. Now, only 18,000 exist after many merged or folded.

"What the Internet has done is given us a nation that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing," said Bill Maloney, CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents. "How do you know if a hotel is actually a good value or if it's overpriced? You have these online generalists and these individual specialists."

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