Travel agents are under attack once again. // (c) 2013 Thinkstock
Here we go again. It seems like every year some consumer magazine, newspaper, industry executive or politician decides to tell the world that travel agents have no relevance for today’s consumers and are not to be trusted.
The latest culprit is Woman’s Day magazine (ironic, I think, since the travel agent industry is female dominated). An article titled “Nine Things a Travel Agent Won’t Tell You” began with this gem: “A travel agent can be a great resource. But some may pressure you into booking less-than-stellar vacations or get you to spend more than necessary to up their take-home pay.”
And the story just went downhill from there.
Travel industry reaction was swift and powerful. John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Leisure Group and Vacation.com, and Barry Liben, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, wrote to the magazine’s editors. Royal Caribbean came out with an official statement that read, “In response to the recent WomansDay.com article, Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International strongly value the travel agent community…. We remain committed to the travel agent community and will continue to support them in the promotion of the value of cruise vacations and growing their businesses.”
Vicki Freed, senior vice president at Royal Caribbean, personally posted a letter on her Facebook page that blasted the article, saying, “Plain and simple, this is irresponsible ‘journalism.’ Your quick and easy fluff piece is filled with damaging allegations about a highly dedicated group of individuals.”
Freed’s letter went on to talk about her personal experience with agents.
“I have worked in travel, directly with travel agents, for more than 30 years,” she wrote. “Travel advisors are not vindictive, money-hungry, misleading people as your article portrays them to be.”
What makes this story unusual, perhaps, is that this united defense of travel agents appears to have gotten the attention of Woman’s Day. They immediately started backpedaling and posted this statement at the end of the online story:
“Thank you to all the hard-working travel agents who provided feedback on this story. The goal of this article was to inform consumers on how they can get the best prices on travel. Helping readers find value is Woman’s Day’s main objective, and we recognize that travel agents provide valuable services that help women’s vacation dreams come true. We’re sorry if that didn’t come through in this article. We’re happy to say we will be highlighting these services in the October issue of Woman’s Day magazine and in a story in December on WomansDay.com. We’ve thoroughly reviewed this article and have removed point 9 (about airline commission) based on information you provided. We thank you again for sharing your expertise and doing the great work that you do. We’re looking forward to working with some of you closely on our December online feature story.”
It will be interesting to see how the articles in the coming months portray agents.
In any case, hopefully we have all learned a valuable lesson about the power that agents, organizations and suppliers wield when they come together for a common cause. The episode also provides a good example of why travel agents need to be engaged with the public, promoting themselves and their profession at every turn.