I had to wonder what was wrong after numerous travel agents posted furious responses to today’s story about an agent that acted in an apparently unethical manner. Why were they being so defensive of a colleague who probably ought to be looking for another line of work?
The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, as presented in the American Society of Travel Agents’ 2008 outlook (PDF) offers an explanation: Travel agents are headed toward extinction. Their numbers have shrunk from 111,130 a decade ago to 85,580 in 2007, the last year for which numbers are available. What’s more, the government projects that the number of agents will remain flat through the middle of the next decade.
No wonder they’re upset. But they’re in good company.
My own profession — believe it or not, journalism — is undergoing similar, dramatic changes.
Depressing, isn’t it? There goes my livelihood.
But instead of having a pity party — as some of the agents today seem intent on doing — I’m looking for the next thing. And the smartest travel professionals (easy to spot them: they’re the ones making the more level-headed comments) have done the same. They aren’t looking to the past, but the future.
It would be nice if some of the agents taking the time to rail against me for “bashing” them would also take the time to notice when I recommend the services of a professional travel agent, which I do frequently.
But I understand why they don’t. When the world seems to be falling apart around you, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. It’s something I struggle with, too.
The good news is that the best travel agents will survive. Because I think there will always be a need for a competent travel advisor.