The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has spoken out in defence of travel agents after US President Barack Obama used the industry as an example of a trade that was becoming obsolete thanks to the internet.
Speaking in Atkinson, Illinois, Mr Obama said “one of the challenges in terms of rebuilding our economy is businesses have gotten so efficient that … when was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using the ATM, or used a travel agent instead of just going online?”
“A lot of jobs that used to be out there requiring people now have become automated,” he said.
Unhappy with the comments, ASTA wrote to Mr Obama to ensure he understood “the contribution travel agents make to the economy”, telling the President that the US travel industry comprised “10,000 US-based travel agency firms operating in 15,000 locations” with an annual payroll of $6.3 billion.
“While the President’s intention surely was not to disparage the travel agency industry, his statement makes clear the need for greater education and understanding of the important role travel agents play in today’s travel marketplace,” ASTA chief executive Tony Gonchar said.
According to ASTA, the US travel agency industry accounts for more than 50 per cent of all travel sold, processing more than US$146 billion in annual travel sales.
“The travel industry remains a business very much built on personal relationships,” Mr Gonchar added.
“Travel agents work as personal advisors to provide their clients with the best travel experience before during and after their trip.
“Thanks to their in-depth knowledge, experience and industry connections, travel agents are able not only to save their clients money, but their most valuable possession—their time.”
2010 saw year-on-year revenue growth of 51 per cent for ASTA leisure-based travel agencies, an ASTA survey revealed.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: M.H