ASTA came out in strong support of the travel agency industry in response to a statement President Obama made regarding how the Internet has replaced many jobs, among them travel agents, while speaking at a town hall meeting in Atkinson, Ill., this week.
In his talk, President Obama stated that “…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.”
“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,” said ASTA CEO Tony Gonchar. “ASTA has communicated with the President to ensure he understands the contribution travel agents make to the economy.”
In its letter, ASTA informed the President that today, the U.S. travel agency industry “is comprised of nearly 10,000 U.S.-based travel agency firms operating in 15,000 locations. We have an annual payroll of $6.3 billion. Most importantly, our businesses produce full-time employment for more than 120,000 U.S. taxpayers.”
Gonchar further stated that the U.S. travel agency industry processes more than $146 billion in annual travel sales and accounts 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. Overall, travel agents help more than 144 million travelers get where they want to go each year.
“The travel industry remains a business very much built on personal relationships,” added Gonchar. “Americans have the desire to travel, and they continue to turn to experienced travel agents to make these dream vacations a reality. Travel agents work as personal advisors to provide their clients with the best travel experience before, during and after their trip. Thanks to their in-depth knowledge, experience and industry connections, travel agents are able not only to save their clients money, but their most valuable possession — their time.”
A study by Forrester Research found that in the first quarter of 2010, 28 percent of U.S. leisure travelers who booked their trips online said they would be interested in using a good, traditional travel agent. Moreover, an ASTA study released earlier this year found that 51 percent of ASTA leisure-based travel agencies saw increased revenue in 2010 compared to 2009.