ABC: Travel Agencies Flying High

Travel agents, including storefront agencies, got a boost from ABC’s “Nightline,” which carried a segment on travel agents' ability to survive and compete against online travel sellers.

ABC featured retail chain Liberty Travel and its CEO Billy McDonough, who pointed out the value of personalized services by professional agents who can deliver value to travelers.

McDonough noted that professional agents can go the extra mile for clients, especially during a travel emergency, flight delays or other problems. He noted the trend toward migration of consumers to traditional travel agents from online travel sellers and said that Liberty Travel often gained clients when an emergency impacted travelers.

ABC also noted the ability of agents to find competitive prices, the importance of the agent expertise and back-up resources available to assist travelers. ABC’s Terry Moran also noted that 14,000 agents have survived and prospered over the past decade despite losses.

“Liberty Travel is one of many travel agencies surviving despite recession and internet,” ABC said.

The five-minute segment stressed the importance of the human equation in booking travel and questioned last month’s comments by President Obama that travel agents had been made obsolescent by the growth of technology and online travel bookings.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and other groups, including Travel Leaders and the Business Travel Coalition questioned Obama’s comments.

In January 2008, Liberty Travel became part of Flight Centre Limited (FLT), an Australian-based global travel group that operates more than 2,000 leisure, corporate and wholesale travel stores in 11 countries. Liberty Travel is estimated to have 175 locations in the U.S.

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