Charles Watkins wouldn?t attempt to travel without the help of his travel agent. Whenever he has a problem, as he did in a recent trip back East, he recalls why he uses one.

?My travel agent was able to help me when my connecting flight was canceled and I was left stranded at the airport,? Watkins said. ?I was able to call him, and through his suppliers he was able to book another flight ? without any penalties or additional costs.?

Count the Leawood resident among a growing number of people throwing their loyalty and dollars to travel agents. After more than a decade of decline, various reports indicate travel agents are staging a comeback.

Customers frustrated with the recent rash of sold-out hotels and airline seats are discovering that for all the hype, Web sites such as Hotels.com, Orbitz and Travelocity are losing some of their edge, according to the June issue of Smart Money magazine. It reported that growth in the once red-hot online travel business is cooling. Bookings were up 20 percent last year after a 28 percent increase in 2004.

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