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I wonder whether the meaning of "travel company", "travel firm" and "travel agency" is the same. Can we use them interchangeably to vary the language in a paragraph?

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  • I’m most familiar with the term travel agent or travel agency (e.g the Carnival Cruise). I don’t often hear travel firm/company in conversations. – EnglishLearner Mar 27 '13 at 15:06
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While Radu Miron's answer isn't incorrect per se, in a general context, the terms in your example are entirely interchangeable. You could also add "travel bureau", or "travel organisation" if you need more.

However, if your paragraph is discussing or explaining different types of companies that assist travellers (assuming there is a range of types of travel company), then you would need to be careful about which company type you used where. It all depends on the context.

Incidentally, as inferred by Radu Miron, travel agency is probably the most precise of the choices as they act as an intermediary between clients. You could also use "travel agent"/"travel agents" without loss of clarity - even though this would, strictly speaking, refer to a person/people rather than a company.

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    +1 for bureau and for agent. At least in the U.S., the use of the term agent in place of agency or company seems to be quite pervasive. I'm more likely to say, "I need to call a travel agent" than agency, even when I have no idea about the name of the person who might pick up the phone. About the only time I'd be inclined to use travel agency over travel agent is when I'm referring to the company building, as opposed to the workers inside, as in, "I need to stop by the travel agency on my way home tonight." – J.R. Mar 27 '13 at 11:50
  • This is true. They could all be used interchangeably but not in the same paragraph. Wasn't this the question here? – SmokerAtStadium Mar 27 '13 at 13:40
  • To vary the language? Yes they could, why not? You wouldn't want to go overboard and try to use all of them, but within reason, any and all of a subset of the alternatives could be used. – mcalex Mar 27 '13 at 17:11
  • @mcalex: That's another way to look at it. You'd only need to avoid varying up the terms if you thought it might confuse the reader. – J.R. Mar 27 '13 at 23:07
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Company, firm and agency have their own particularities. A firm is an partnership or association for carrying on a business. An agency is a particular kind of company which serves as an intermediary between clients. Using them interchangeably in the same paragraph could be confusing.

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    It depends on what you mean by "interchangeably." If I'm talking to a coworker, and I say, "Excuse me for a moment, I need to call my travel agency," I could probably substitute firm or company without confusing anyone. However, if I was writing a book about travel to Europe, I'd probably want to be consistent, and not refer to an agency in one chapter, and a firm in another. – J.R. Mar 27 '13 at 11:46

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