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ASTA Reports Increased Interest in Travel Agent Services By Consumers

( Alexandria, Va., July 19, 2007—In a society where personalized service has become practically obsolete, travel agents have made an impression on consumers seeking one-on-one attention. In fact, recent articles in Smart Money, the New York Times, and the Philadelphia Inquirer show what ASTA has known all along—travel agents are here to stay because they bring value to the travel equation.

Articles in these publications indicate a rise in travel agent usage, despite the projected increase in Internet bookings. In fact, research reported by these sources show many consumers are using the Internet to conduct travel related research but turning to agents to book their travel. Current trends indicate, “the proportion of consumers planning to use the Internet in the next three months to research travel continues to outnumber those intending to book online by nearly two to one. Overall activity, however, has declined over the past three years” (Modern Agent).

“The research recently reported is very much in line with our experience that travel agents are doing well and business is booming,” said Cheryl Hudak, CTC, ASTA president and CEO. “Over and over again we find consumers reaching out to travel agents for personalized service and for the knowledge and resources they offer as experts.”

U.S. travel agents' total annual sales are between $120 and $130 billion and rising. That is a lot of travel, and when you consider that travel agents still sell 51 percent of all airline tickets, 87 percent of all cruises, 81 percent of all tours and packages, 45 percent of all car rentals and about 47 percent of all hotels, it demonstrates that agents have the power, and the power is customer loyalty.

There is a host of compelling reasons to use a travel agent: Travel agents are out to find the consumer the best rate available. Convenient, one-stop shopping. Agents are there to save you money, as well as time.
Customer advocacy: If you have a problem with a particular part of your travel experience, the agent is there to act on your behalf to see that restitution is made. ASTA, for example, is the only travel association aggressively fighting to improve the travel experience, and air transportation in particular, for all consumers, not just those with access to the Internet.

Expert guidance: Travel agents, unlike instructions on a Web page, are experts in understanding and deciphering myriad travel information and codes. It's what they've been trained to do and they do it every day.

Personalized service: Instead of an impersonal voice thousand of miles away, travel agents are your neighbors. They know what you want and what you value in your travel experience.

Professional advice: Travel agents are there to make sure you get where you want to go, when you want to go and for the best value.
Time: Instead of checking a long list of travel Web pages, which only provide rates and fares for the companies that have contracted with them, why not go straight to the source? A travel agent has all the information at their fingertips, saving you a few hours in front of a computer screen.
Unbiased information: Agents work for their clients, not for a travel supplier. It makes sense that a happy customer will be a repeat customer.
Travel agents are here for our clients before, during and after their trip,” added Hudak. “We provide value, expertise, convenience and personal service for our clients.”

The mission of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. ASTA seeks a retail travel marketplace that is profitable and growing and a rewarding field in which to work, invest and do business.

Contact: Kristina Rundquist/Ayanna Canty

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