Seize the Momentum

Lately, there have been several articles in the mainstream press about the value of using a travel agent versus the difficulty of booking online.

By: By Kenneth Shapiro

 Kenneth Shapiro
Lately, there have been several articles in the mainstream press about the value of using a travel agent versus the difficulty of booking online. For instance, an Aug. 4 story in The New York Times cited a report by Forrester Research that found that “many consumers were fed up with the complicated process of planning and booking travel.”

“Travel companies expect the consumer to behave like a travel agent,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, a Forrester travel analyst, in the article. “That there are more people now who would consider using a good offline travel agent is telling me people are saying, ‘Enough already.’”

While this idea is nothing new to those of us in the industry, articles like this obviously convey an important message that we want to promote to the general public. The next step, however, involves how to utilize this kind of positive press in order to generate business.

Often, travel agents circulate this positive praise only to each other, while being too shy, or short-sighted, to toot their own horns in public. If we make an effort to talk about the advantages of using a travel agent — not just with those who already agree with us, but with the uninformed — it will help all of us in the long run.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has plenty of ready-to-distribute information for agents, including:

  • A tip sheet, “Why Use a Travel Agent,” on the TravelSense site (www.travelsense.org/tips/whyuseanagent.cfm)
  • An article entitled “Good Reasons to Use a Travel Agent” in the public section of ASTA’s site (www.asta.org)
  • A customizable press release members can send to local media entitled “What Every Consumer Should Know About Working With a Travel Agent” (in the member-only media resources section of www.asta.org)
  • A service-club speech that ASTA members can present to local clubs and groups on the value of using a travel agent (in the member-only media resources section of www.asta.org)

It would be great for all agents to supplement this positive media attention and turn it into greater momentum for our industry. After years of negative articles accusing agents of being a thing of the past, we now have the opportunity to let the media work for us, rather than against us. — K.S.

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