A recent article titled “When All Else Fails, Consider a Useless Job” - on a site called CareerCast.com - took shots at our industry, and got it completely wrong. ASTA’s Paul Ruden responded quickly and with vigor.
Here is his response:
To CareerCast.com re “When All Else Fails, Consider a Useless Job”
The inclusion of travel agents in your article about “useless jobs,” along with the likes of sign-spinners and clairvoyants, is as insulting as it is inaccurate. Before slapping such a label on an entire industry, you might have considered doing basic research on it. Since it appears that you didn’t, I am taking this opportunity to set the record straight on behalf of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and travel agents everywhere.
Contrary to the myth of the travel agent as a dying breed, perpetuated by your article, those who have adapted to the internet era have not only survived but have thrived. Travel agents have fully embraced new technologies and serve consumers through both specialized professional travel distribution technology, not available to consumers, as well as internet-based tools.
Because of those facts, travel agents are alive and well – and they do a robust business by providing expertise and advice to millions of travelers every year, using a combination of new and old technologies. Basic research would have shown that as of year-end 2012, there were about 8,000 U.S. travel agency firms in business employing 105,000 people. In 143 million transactions, those agencies sold $86 billion worth of air travel (64 percent of the market). While online agents account for a lot of that business, so-called traditional agents actually sell about half of it, in addition to the vast majority of the $15 billion worth of cruises (64 percent) and $9 billion in tour packages (66 percent). Those are big numbers. Travel agents help to move people around the country and around the world, and in the process keep our economy moving. Useless? Not hardly.
Your article paints travel agency jobs as menial and unrewarding. Clearly, you did not talk to anyone in the industry before writing your article. A career as a travel agent is exciting, fast-paced and rewarding. A 2011 Oprah segment on the “Happiest Jobs in America” revealed that travel agents are among the happiest professionals in America. Travel agents, along with clergy, special education teachers and firefighters, were given this special distinction, thanks in part to the amount of social interaction these professions offer.
While their role has changed over the decades, travel agents serve a vital public purpose and fulfill a range of needs for the traveling public, something your article hinted at underneath its deceptive and attention-grabbing headline. They use both cutting-edge technologies and the internet to save consumers money and time. That’s why consumers use, and will continue to use, travel agents – for professional help as to how best to spend their limited travel dollars. Labeling these hard-working women and men as “useless” does them and your readers a huge disservice.
Paul M. Ruden, Senior Vice President, American Society of Travel Agents
ASTA members can read the entire CareerCast.com article here.
ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally based members, it is the leading global advocate for travel agents, the travel industry and the traveling public. ASTA’s history of travel industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. For more information, visit ASTA.org.
ASTA’s sister association, The National Association of Career Travel Agents, represents a professional community of independent travel agents ready to assist the traveling public.