The printed press and social media are full of headlines such as:
” 9 Things Your Travel Agent Will Not Tell You,” “Useless Jobs,” “Travel Do it Yourself” or “How to be a Travel Hacker.” Furthermore, if you search the definition of a Travel Agency you will find information that says:
“With general public access to the Internet, many airlines and other travel companies began to sell directly to passengers. As a consequence, airlines no longer needed to pay the commissions to travel agents on each ticket sold. Since 1997, travel agencies have gradually been disintermediated”(Cutting the middle man).
Misconceptions including the belief that using a Travel Agency will cost clients more, or the infamous question, “Do travel agents still exist?” need to be addressed. Our labor of love has never been put to the test more than now, but was it always like this? Were Travel Agents always under-appreciated? Why? How is it that our 127-year-old industry is being placed in this modern-day situation?
Here’s an interesting fact: The oldest known travel agency in the United States is Brownell Travel, founded on July 4, 1887. Mr. Walter T. Brownell led ten travelers on a European tour, setting sail from New York on the SS Devonia. Originally, travel catered only for upper class customers, but the post-war boom opened travel to the mass market, allowing everyone to look for convenient ways to go back to Europe for “the holidays.”
I commend Mr. Brownell and his legacy, taking those early travel pioneers to the old continent. I also commend and congratulate the new owners for continuing their services today.
Changes of the perception of Travel Agents, are clear shown in the contrast of messages, of 2 of our Presidents, we were particularly praised by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and nowadays are considered irrelevant, even according to President Obama in a 2011 speech.
Here is a transcript of their messages;
In President John F. Kennedy’s own words:
“It gives me great pleasure to extend my greetings to the American Society of travel agents on the occasion of its annual Congress. Your contributions to the furthering of peace and international understanding through the promotion and stimulation of worldwide travel are most heartening.
The economic impact of your work has been beneficial for countries large and small. Your organization has been a vital instrument of expansion for the economies of countries undergoing post-war recovery and newly emerging nations.
In our own country, it has provided one of the three main sources of income for 20 of our States, and, last but not least, through its efforts to encourage more people to visit the United States, it has positively and efficiently aided us in the amelioration of our balance of payments situation.
The consistent increase in the number of visitors from overseas in the past two years reflects the efforts of your members in developing travel facilities at home and abroad for those who wish to visit the United States.
Your continued service can be of invaluable assistance to our country in a future in which travel will play an increasingly crucial role.”
Powerful words that make any Travel Agent feel proud to serve their country.
In contrast, President Barack Obama’s own words in 2011:
“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.”
Strong words that could make any Travel Agent feel devastated and feel purposeless in serving our country.
The industry went through many changes, from the 60’s until now and the Travel agent, Professional Advisor, stand still loyal to their customers, regardless of the adversities, they continue being loyal to their clients, creating memories of a Lifetime.