The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has come out in strong support of the travel agency industry following a statement from US president Barack Obama.
Obama claimed earlier this week the internet had replaced many jobs, among them travel agents, while speaking at a town hall meeting in Atkinson, Illinois.
In his remarks, Obama stated “one of the challenges in terms of rebuilding our economy is businesses have gotten so efficient that - when was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using the ATM, or used a travel agent instead of just going online?
“A lot of jobs that used to be out there requiring people now have become automated,” he added.
Following the remarks, ASTA has sent an open letter to the White House, informing the president the US travel agency industry “is comprised of nearly 10,000 US-based travel agency firms operating in 15,000 locations”.
“We have an annual payroll of $6.3 billion,” added the ASTA letter.
“Most importantly, our businesses produce full-time employment for more than 120,000 US taxpayers.”
The US travel agent sector processes more than $146 billion in annual travel sales, accounting for more than 50 per cent of all travel sold, argues ASTA.
This includes the processing of more than 50 per cent of all airline tickets, more than 79 per cent of tours and more than 78 per cent of all cruises.
“While the president’s intention surely was not to disparage the travel agency industry, his statement makes clear the need for greater education and understanding of the important role travel agents play in today’s travel marketplace,” said ASTA chief executive Tony Gonchar.
“ASTA has communicated with the president to ensure he understands the contribution travel agent make to the economy.”