ASTA has come out in strong support of the announcement by iTrek—the Australian travel insurance provider that had launched a much-decried "Travel Agents Are Dead" film contest—that it would stop its negative marketing campaign.
"On behalf of our more than 10,000 members across the world, we are extremely pleased to learn that iTrek has stopped the negative campaign," ASTA President and Chair Chris Russo said. "Admitting a mistake is never easy, but we all make them. We thank iTrek for a sound decision. And, we are most grateful to TravelGuard for its efforts in bringing this campaign to an end and publicly reaffirming its commitment to travel agents. It is reassuring to know that the important role travel agents play in the sale of travel insurance has not gone unnoticed."
When ASTA learned of the campaign, it immediately sent a letter to iTrek, urging it to cancel the promotion. The letter has been republished below.
The American Society of Travel Agents urge[s] you to withdraw the promotion entitled Travel Agents Are Dead. While you are free to compete vigorously for business, and everyone understands the need to stand out from the crowd, the theme and tone of this promotion is unnecessary to achieve either of those aims and is offensive to travel agents everywhere. It amounts to a form of name calling and is, in any case, based on a false premise. Despite the extremely difficult world economy, many travel agencies are operating successfully. And while the Internet is open to all, it is not the solution for all, as demonstrated by the continuing patronage of travel agents around the world.
Travel agents are far from "death;" in fact, all signs indicate a healthy industry. Today’s travel agents offer outstanding services through both personal contact and their web sites. Rather than shunning the Internet and progress, travel agents have embraced online technology, not only in promoting themselves and their services, but in assisting their clients in finding the best value and travel options to suit their needs.
As a result, despite the ability to book travel on their own, many people are now returning to a more traditional form of travel planning. And the online travel agencies have added a live, call-in option where consumers can speak directly with travel agents in support of their Internet-focused businesses. Convergence of personal service and technology is the order of the day and in the end, consumers benefit across the board.