Hillary Clinton is a supporter of travel agents. // © 2016 iStock
No matter your political preference, you have to respect Hillary Clinton’s dedication to travel. During her four years as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, the current Democratic presidential candidate journeyed to 112 countries in the name of diplomacy. That’s 956,733 miles — and a loud-and-clear endorsement for traveling the world in order to make in-person connections.
Even though I heard Clinton speak several years ago —at American Society of Travel Agents’ Global Convention in Miami in 2013 — I haven’t forgotten her keynote address to the travel agent audience. Besides gaining a better understanding of the world’s leaders, she clearly learned something else while traveling: the value of a travel agent.
“I have a deep appreciation for the magic that you do every single day,” Clinton said. “This is not an easy task that you’re experts in — I had motorcades to help me out.”
Following are a few more memorable takeaways from Clinton’s speech about travel, agents and diplomacy, including her first flight, her favorite world leader and even a slogan she thinks travel agents should adopt.
What Travel Agents Do
“Thanks to a terrific travel agent, my travel goes very smoothly. My agent serves me very well and is trying to get me frequent flier miles for all those Air Force flights.”
“You help Americans follow their dreams. You’re in the dreams business.”
“It’s music to my ears — talking to people who know more about travel than I do.”
“The plane is a symbol and a reality of what we must do together. So thank you for bringing Americans to the world.”
“I have addressed Global Business Travel Association, [which books] trips for their executives and others. In my view, you have a much more challenging effort to make. [Your clients] want to travel and use a travel agent to make their travel more effective and fun. Personal attention goes a long way.”
What Makes a Good Travel Agent
“We have had the same travel agent for many years now. [We appreciate] immediate responsiveness and creativity — somebody who is really there for you. Nothing substitutes for that kind of personal attention.”
OTAs Vs. Travel Agents
“I think there’s a real opportunity. I may be wrong about this, but I think that online searching is going to get really old. There is no way to verify what you’re finding on the Internet. The pictures don’t look like what [you think you’re] getting. I could spend hours on my computer, and there’s no way that I can know that I’m getting what I’m buying.”
The Relationship Between Democracy and Travel
“You know this so well — because you live it: In the age that you can be anywhere virtually, people want you to be there in person.”
“People would say, ‘Why in the world are you going to the Cook Islands or Togo on the west coast of Africa, a place that no secretary of state has been before?’ Those Pacific islands vote in regional and national organizations [Togo held a rotating seat on the Security Council] and have been great supporters of the U.S., and I wanted to show them respect and that we’re appreciative of what they’re trying to do.”
“I would go to Asia, but I wouldn’t go to just speak to leaders. I wanted to get a feel for what was on the minds of young people.”
“In [Myanmar], I had met with generals who had just taken off their uniforms, trying to figure out what a democracy for them would mean. The generals had traveled — they had gone to Thailand, Singapore [and] Indonesia, which had to evolve into a democracy — and had put the pieces together: These countries are doing better than we are. I am convinced that travel helped to change minds in the military dictatorship that governed in [Myanmar]. I was struck by how much they wanted to learn to be a democratic leader.”
Her World Leader Icon
“My travel has given me insight into a lot of leaders and how they make decisions, and probably the most impressive leader has been Nelson Mandela. I was privileged to go to his inauguration on behalf of our country in 1994. The three most important visitors were ones he had personally invited: three men who had been among his former jailers on Robbin Island.
“These three older, middle-age men stood up, and everyone was stunned and began to applaud. In those 27 years in prison, he had a lot of time to reflect. He responded to acts of kindness, to acts by his jailers that respected his human dignity. He could walk out of that prison door and still be imprisoned in his heart and mind and he could lead in a direction that was decisive. He could judge people by their actions, not the color of their skin.”
Personal Travel Highlights
As a kid: “We traveled to the same place every year. We would drive from Chicago to the lake. We have wonderful memories from that. We would take side trips: from Chicago to Toronto to Scranton [Penn.] or Niagara Falls. We knew the toll roads pretty well in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. I’m sorry — my dad did not help travel agents at all.”
As a teenager: “When I was in high school, I got permission to go to Fort Lauderdale, [Fla.] and we had a lot of fun. That might have been my first time on an airplane.”
As an adult: “By the time that Bill [Clinton] was governor, we still liked to do road trips across the country with Bill, Chelsea and me. We did a lot of that, and we began to travel more broadly. Taking Chelsea was a great joy of being in the White House. It’s a great way to tell a country that you want to get to know them in a more personal basis.”
Clinton’s Suggested Slogan for Travel Agents
“To get what you really want, come to us. Let us help you get the kind of travel experience that you’re seeking.”