Annoyed Travel Agents To Obama: We're Not Obsolete

There are two reasons we probably don’t write very many stories about travel agencies: many of them do a better job of problem-resolution than the airlines, hotels and cruise lines they deal with; and common sense would tell you it’s likely that fewer people are using agents because it’s just as easy to book travel on your own. President Obama recently expressed a similar sentiment, and the travel agents of America want him to know they haven’t exactly gone the way of the dot matrix printer.

The President said the following during a town hall meeting thing in Illinois:

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.

That was enough for the folks at the American Society of Travel Agents to pen a letter to the White House letting everyone know that the industry isn’t as obsolete as some would have you believe.

“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,” writes the ASTA CEO.

According to the letter, there are “nearly 10,000 U.S.-based travel agency firms operating in 15,000 locations,” representing 120,000 full-time employees with annual payroll of $6.3 billion.

More data from the ASTA letter:
• U.S. travel agents process more than $146 billion in annual travel sales, accounting for more than 50 percent of all travel sold. This includes the processing of more than 50 percent of all airline tickets, more than 79 percent of tours and more than 78 percent of all cruises.

Do these numbers surprise you? An informal survey of Consumerist HQ found that none of us have ever used a travel agent directly, though at least one of us remembers our parents using one to book a trip to Disney World in 1990.

Barack Obama annoys travel agents by suggesting they’re obsolete [The Economist]