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

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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