ASTA moved quickly to defend travel agents against what it called an "error-ridden" blog on careercast.com titled “When All Else Fails, Consider a Useless Job.” The article included travel agents as “useless” along with sign-spinners and clairvoyants; an assertion as insulting as it is inaccurate, ASTA said.
“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,” responded Paul Ruden, ASTA senior vice president.
"Contrary to the myth of the travel agent as a dying breed, perpetuated by the 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," ASTA said in its rebuttal.
Because of those facts, travel agents are alive and well, ASTA said, 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.
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).
According to Ruden: “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,” Ruden continued.
A 2011 Oprah segment on the “Happiest Jobs in America” revealed that travel agents are among the happiest professionals in America, Ruden argued. "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, ASTA's Ruden said. "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 the traveling consumer a huge disservice."
ASTA noted that members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States.