Did TV and radio ruin the newspaper industry?
Have supermarkets and fastfood ruined the restaurant industry?
Did airlines ruins the ship passenger industry?
Hoffer`s is such the simplified view… perhaps it is designed to motivate or maybe it is US biased.
The basic requirement for any industry and business in the internet age is to FOCUS. Identify what it is that you really do, and use the net to augment that. Do you just sell air tickets? Well in that case expand your service or your are history. But as a travel agent you should be selling or providing information that assists with every aspect of travel. Let your staff play on the net, find web sites that help YOU. Charge a booking fee.
Specialise. Focus on a particular type of travel / destination and use the net to source all the obscure bits of information and suppliers you may need. Then build your own website to promote your expertise!
The internet is an important a source of information to both agent and traveller but unlike the agent the traveller has to do it in their own time. Much like DIY, time spent searching for a holiday is time that could be spent doing something else. Some people are happy to do this and learning by their mistakes. Others value professional input and avoid the stress. Providing an agent provides an informed, efficient and reliable service they will be in demand.
Hoffer assumes that the internet travel buyer has the facilities, time, experience and, above all, inclination, to search the net. The fact that his son was asked by friends to help them find travel facilities proves him wrong. A home PC is relatively slow and therefore frustrating. Telephone bills run up. Time is wasted with so many poor websites and over-optimistic search engines.
The dotcom industry is littered with the detritus of web companies that failed to achieve the turnover they needed. Those that are surviving are those with long term views, experience and, more often than not, a physical entity. The net, as we now all know, is simply another method of distributing product and information. Much like the high street shop.
What are you going to do this bank holiday? Visit the DIY superstore or meet friends, play with the family and phone an expert?