Last updated: 01:50 AM ET, Mon October 29 2012

Obama, Economics and Travel Agents

Last week you heard President Barack Obama refer to travel agents as if they are extinct. In his mind they have been replaced by technology. That was clear when he said: “A lot of jobs that used to be out there requiring people now have become automated.” He included travel agents as one of those jobs when he asked about the last time someone “used a travel agent instead of just going online?”

The president needs to understand that it’s called advice, something he could use a lot of these days. He needs to stop lecturing and start listening to the people that actually create jobs. Does the president know that one in 10 jobs created this year so far have been in the travel industry? My guess is no, so why should you be surprised when he seems clueless as to how half of all travel in the United States is actually booked?

One of the ironies of this current administration is the fact that it doesn’t understand business.

One of the ironies of this current administration is the fact that it doesn’t understand business, something that’s more and more evident as time goes on. If the president stopped and took some time to truly understand what it takes to run a business he might actually start acting in the best interests of creating real jobs. With 10 percent of all new jobs created in this industry, I think we might deserve some attention in this regard.

Today we are north of 9 percent unemployment and all we hear are excuses. Some of those came up in the comments from our readers for our story last week when they tried to explain why Obama got it wrong. For example, one reader stated: “It is true that the ability to do many things through the Internet has resulted in a loss of jobs in many industries, so the president’s comments are correct and not disparaging. There are many people who are quite capable of researching travel packages on the Internet and simply booking online…”

The vast majority of travel, regardless of online tools, is still booked by travel agents.

What this reader misses is the fact that the vast majority of travel, regardless of online tools, is still booked by travel agents. The president did get it wrong because the numbers don’t lie - and those numbers are both in terms of job creation as well as dollars sold.

Some comments from our readers referenced ASTA and groups like The Travel Institute and their need to “educate” the public on the value of travel agents. Another reader stated: “The point I would like to make is organizations like ASTA, The Travel Institute and other larger bodies are the ones who should be educating not just the President (someone in his staff probably put that in there) but also the general public including the media.”

We can all wait around for something to “magically” happen or we can take matters into our own hands.

I hate to break the news to everyone, but these organizations, and the industry as a whole, have failed in this regard. We can all wait around for something to “magically” happen or we can take matters into our own hands. Check out the In the Media section on my website, www.MarkMurphyTravels.com, to see how I’m getting the word out about travel agents one interview at a time. Think about what you can do at a grassroots level to do the same.

The power of one person each day, magnified by the reach of social media, can have a profound impact over time. Just make sure that you don’t wait around for someone else to make it happen since it needs to be a collective voice. If President Obama doesn’t get what travel agents do today, it’s time we all set out to make sure that he and the general public truly does understand what agents do. This is truly an educational moment that the industry must seize on today!

Mark Murphy is president and CEO of Travalliance, parent of TravelPulse.com, Agent@Home magazine, Vacation Agent magazine, TravelTribe.com, Travel Agent Academy and Virtual Travel Events.

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