Have Travel Agents Disappeared? I Say No, No, No.

Have Travel Agents Disappeared? No! No! No!

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Have travel agents disappeared? Of course not, but it’s a zombie idea that never seems to die. Now we can add The New York Times to the list of those wondering “Have travel agents disappeared?”

I read a review by Barbara Ehrenreich of “Rise of the Robots” and “Shadow Work” in the New York Times Book Review and was brought up short by this sentence: “Booking travel reservations is now a D.I.Y. task; the travel agents have disappeared.”

ossn-agents

These OSSN agents haven’t disappeared! (Source: OSSN)

After commenting loudly to no one in particular, I took electronic pen to hand and fired off a letter to the editor of the Book Review. Thinking that I’d accomplished nothing besides getting something off my chest, I forgot all about it. Then, lo and behold, they printed my letter in this Sunday’s issue of the Review!

In the letter I cited statistics about the size of the travel distribution channel and reassured the readership of the Times that “travel agents are alive and well and, in many cases, thriving.”

Here’s the entire letter:

To the Editor:

I am sorry to see a writer as intelligent and perceptive as Barbara Ehrenreich repeating the tired fiction that “travel agents have disappeared.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 73,000 travel agents in 2011. In 2014, the trade magazine Travel Weekly estimated there were over 100,000 agents, both retail and home-based.

Ehrenreich is not alone in her mistaken belief. President Obama went on record — twice — as saying that there were no more travel agents. But although many penny-pinching travelers seek out the lowest fares online (and sometimes wind up paying more than they have to), travel agents are alive and well and, in many cases, thriving.

I bring this up not to brag about what a clever fellow I am (well, maybe just a little), but because the experience made me realize something important.

The travel agent profession is being besieged by misguided, misinformed, and sometimes just plain dumb comments about how “there are no more travel agents” and “no one uses travel agents anymore.” Or posing the disingenuous question, “Have travel agents disappeared?” Even President Obama has gone on record as believing travel agents don’t exist. — twice!

Travel agents need to fight back. True, the travel trade press tries to set the record straight. But I wonder how many of those in the “lamestream media” read the travel trade press.

So the next time you see a local news anchor or an article in the paper say something dumb about how travel agents don’t exist — and you will! — write a letter to the TV station or the editor. If you see something online, make the truth known in the comments thread. If there’s no comments thread, send an email to the site.

Be firm but polite and arm yourself with facts. I relied on good old Google to come up with the statistics I used. Use anecdotes from your own experience that illustrate the value travel agents afford their clients.

You may think there’s little point in going to the trouble, that the chances of your letter being published are minimal. You may not want to expose yourself to the nastiness that is endemic in online comment threads. Point taken.

But as my experience with the Times shows, sometimes the message gets through, and if several travel agents wrote their small town newspaper about the latest misinformed comment about the demise of travel agents, my guess is the editor would sit up and take notice.

I can guarantee you one thing, however. You’ll feel better for getting it off your chest. And call me a sap, but I believe that together we can make a difference.

To learn more about how travel agents are succeeding “under the radar,” CLICK HERE.

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Have Travel Agents Disappeared? I Say No, No, No. was last modified: October 20th, 2015 by Kelly Monaghan