Joining the chorus of protests, the Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) reports it wrote to President Obama, outlining ARTA's concerns about a statement made by the President at a town hall meeting in Atkinson, Illinois last week. In an answer to an attendee's question, the President implied that [when booking travel] people go online rather than going to a travel agent.
"In reviewing the video of the President's remarks, and placing his statement within the full context of his response to the young lady asking a question about jobs of the future, we did not get the sense that the President was portraying that travel agents were extinct or redundant. What we immediately recognized was that the President does not understand how the retail travel agency industry operates, how the agency community has responded to and embraced technology, and how travel agents are indeed at the forefront of online travel sites to which the President pointed (and clicked)," said ARTA Chairwoman Nancy Linares.
ARTA pointed out to the President that it is no small achievement that travel agencies have not only become leaders in online travel selling, but also that travel agents have done so in the face of extremely thin margins and a national and global economy which has hit the travel industry harder than most.
Linares also told the President that, notwithstanding the high visibility of travel agencies online, thousands of store-front and physical office travel agency locations supplement the online travel options agents provide with a level of care and service which no web-based travel service alone can offer.
ARTA also told the President that travel agencies processed nearly $80 billion of airline travel transactions last year and, additionally, hundreds of billions of dollars of land, sea and tour arrangements.
ARTA let the President know that travel agencies are among the largest providers of online booking systems and tools, and the only one-stop e-commerce travel shopping venue for air, hotel, car rentals, cruises, tours, group travel, niche and specialty travel, not to mention business travel facilitation and corporate meeting planning. When travelers go online to book travel, chances are pretty good that the web site being visited is an online travel agency, ARTA said.
Putting travel into a context which President might be better able to appreciate, Linares said, "While you may be able to reschedule, reposition, and easily modify how Air Force One maneuvers the skies, it takes a professional travel agent to command the traditional forces at hand to deal with more conventional travel challenges, including delays, weather, war, strikes, and countless other events that no online travel purchasers could avail themselves of without the required human touch and our vast experience and training."
In closing, ARTA said the next time the President and the First Family were planning a personal trip, an ARTA travel agency would only be too happy to provide assistance.