Here We Go Again: More ‘Cheap Shots’ Against Agents
by Robin Amster

The assault on the travel agent profession has yet to go away. Evidence: A recent story on Yahoo! online cited the travel agent profession as one of five “dead end” jobs.

“Our experts say this occupation, like so many others, is being replaced by DIY technology platforms. There’s just no need to use a travel agent in this day and age,” wrote Andrea Duchon in an article titled “Five Dead-End Jobs, and How to Escape Them.”

The other “dead end” jobs cited in the article, which was posted on Yahoo! last month, included desktop publisher, telephone operator, computer repairer and librarian.

For each job that purportedly “leads nowhere,” the story listed alternative careers. The option for travel agent? Paralegal.

Déjà vu all over again
It may seem like deja vu all over again with the Yahoo! story.

Last fall, an online Woman’s Day article detailing “10 Things Travel Agents Won’t Tell You,” triggered an outcry in the agent community.

ASTA mounted a spirited defense of agents – including a letter from ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby – that led Woman’s Day to revise its story, plus add a statement acknowledging “the value” of agents.

This time Kerby also responded to Yahoo! with a strong written defense of agents. There has been no response from the site, he said.

More negative stories?
Sadly, these kinds of stories may keep popping up, Kerby said.

“I think they’re an easy, cheap shot. They’re intellectually lazy arguments, easily made and easily said, that the Internet has supplanted agents,” Kerby told Travel Market Report.

With fewer brick and mortar agencies around today, it may be easier in the “collective consciousness” to think that agents have gone away,” he added.

But agents are  back
The continued portrayal of agents as irrelevant is ironic at a time when the perception – both in the industry and among the public – is that agents are back after weathering some difficult years.

Travel agents' sales reports bear this out, Kerby said. “The past year has been a great year for agents’ business.”

In his letter to Yahoo! Kerby cited statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources on the health of the travel agency profession, including:

•    Agent employment is projected to grow by 10% by 2020, “about as fast as the average for all occupations,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

•    At the end of 2012, there were about 8,000 U.S. travel agency firms employing 105,000 people.

•    Those agencies sold $86 billion in air travel (64% of the market), $15 billion in cruises (64% of the market), and $9 billion in tour packages (66% of the market).

Words can harm
Can negative stories like Yahoo!’s hurt the travel agency community?

“Potentially, for some misinformed readers, yes,” said Kerby. “And that’s the reason we respond.”

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Comments
Terry     1/24/2014 3:22:51 PM
I just sent this messagel to Andrea Duchon:  I find myself in strong disagreement with your article categorizing travel agents among dead-end jobs.  I invite you take a minute to read this explanation as to why you got this one wrong.  Travel Agents:  Dinosaurs or Crocodiles? - http://wp.me/p2vQmR-bZ

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Steve    1/24/2014 3:36:31 PM
Doesn't matter much what Yahoo "thinks" will happen.  Many have predicted the demise of the travel agent for years.  Similar to real estate agents, stockbrokers, insurance salesman, etc.  All of them still exist and while every industry is cyclical, I'm confident that travel agents will evolve and adapt to continue to provide value to their customers.  

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Shelley    1/24/2014 4:33:18 PM
I am starting to laugh at these ignorant comments by journalists. I think our industry is growing and I am obtaining new customers each day who have been booking their own vacations online for the last several years and now returning to the professionals. They realize, it is time-consuming, not always the best deal and trust us more than a computer. Unfortunately, the journalists' negative perception of our profession leads people to believe that it really is a dying industry and there is not a need for us. I used to get angry and defend my profession, but now that "wave" season has hit, I don't have time to fret over someone's OPINION. It is just that - an opinion of someone who's not even in the industry and his/her perception is wrong. Let them be wrong and look stupid. Just yesterday, I started mentoring a 20 yr old who is eager to start in the travel business.  I've been doing this 18 years and my long days, working 12+ hours each day are proof that travel agents are alive and kicking.  Thanks for standing up for us ASTA.

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Dan    1/24/2014 7:26:16 PM
I am wondering what rock this writer has been under.........  Apparently she does not have a clue has to the value of a true travel professional. Having been in this industry for decades......with all the changes, internet........... is no substitute for a healthy professional business relationship with a travel agent. It is unfortunate the author of this nonsence did not have the opportunity to hear Hillary Clinton speak at ASTA's Global Convention about the value of her travel agent.   Dan Smith

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Cade    1/24/2014 8:27:29 PM
  This is like saying since you can go to Legal Zoom online you no longer need to use a lawyer again.   HA !  Many of these so called writers have zero credibility and just rehash ole stories in an attempt to stay relevant. 

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Tip of the Day
The cruise lines are cozying back up to agents, paying higher commissions to win back their favor after agents began turning toward land-based products when cruises became a tough sell. For selling bigger-ticket trips to today's repeat cruisers, traditional agents are the cruise lines' best friends.
  
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