In a timely and welcomed move, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced the launch of a new report calling for a travel industry dialogue aimed at elevating the role of travel agents, a critical sales force for the entire travel and tourism industry.
CLIA’s new report, “From Travel Agent to ‘Travel Advisor’: Defining, Elevating and Promoting the Role of Travel Agents for the Next Generation,” outlines the state of the travel agent business today, emphasizing the important role it plays for the broader travel industry, and identifies some of the key issues that the profession must address to continue to be successful in 2012 and beyond.
“Our aim in outlining this case is to begin a meaningful, industry-wide dialogue that articulates the unique role agents play in today’s travel industry and considers the steps necessary to develop a strategic roadmap for developing the next generation of travel agents,” said Christine Duffy, CLIA president and CEO.
“The travel agent profession is critical to the entire travel industry, yet we have not taken a comprehensive look at its value or considered a coordinated industry dialogue until now,” Duffy said.
With the rise of online travel booking engines, proliferation of customer review sites, and changing commission models, the image of the travel agency profession has changed dramatically in recent years, CLIA said.
Despite the public perception that the agent industry is in decline, in 2011, according to PhoCusWright, it processed $95 billion in travel sales, accounting for one-third of all travel sold, CLIA said.
This total includes 45 percent of all airline tickets, 67 percent of tours and 68 percent of cruises. In addition, CLIA cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts of growth in the travel agent workforce, which is poised to increase about 10 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is on par with average predicted overall U.S. job growth.
The report calls attention to the long history of and evolving value proposition of travel agents over the decades, and it poses questions to the agents and the broader travel industry as to how the agent profession can adapt to the changing environment and thrive, CLIA says.
The report aims to stimulate ideas and coalesce industry support around the concept of a unified effort to better position travel agents for future success, and to shift the conversation about agents from one of survival to growth.
“The evolution of the travel agency industry will have a direct and powerful impact on the U.S. and global travel and tourism industry in the coming years,” said Tony Gonchar, CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents and a major contributor to CLIA’s report.
“CLIA’s report is an excellent first step to help begin a dialogue with the travel industry to ensure the future growth of the travel agency community and the whole of the travel industry,” Gonchar said.
For more information and to download the full report, visit www.cruising.org.