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Thomas Cook: American Society of Travel Advisors speaks

September 25, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The world’s biggest travel agent organisation, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), has shrugged off suggestions that the Thomas Cook collapse heralds the demise of travel agencies or the end of the retail travel industry.

ASTA president and chief executive, Zane Kerby, issued the following statement in response to Thomas Cook ceasing operations:

It is a sad day in the travel community as we mourn the loss of Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm. With tens of thousands of lost jobs and hundreds of thousands of affected travellers, the impact is real and substantial. 

It’s unfortunate that funding wasn’t secured in time to preserve the brand and avoid the disruption to the lives of employees and to travellers. The unique circumstances surrounding Brexit magnified Thomas Cook’s financial challenges in their home market. 

The Thomas Cook situation is not indicative of the declining health of the overall travel advisor industry. Far from it. According to our independent recent research study, travel advisors report strong business demand, and growth for 2020.

In fact, over the past six years, our yearly consumer research study reports a higher number of consumers turning to travel advisors each year. The vast majority of our members, mostly women-owned small businesses, indicate that their businesses are thriving. At the same time, the U.S. Census Bureau’s numbers for travel agency employment continue to grow, with an eight percent increase over five years. Some in the media have been calling for the demise of the travel agencies since the dawn of the new millennium and the rise of online booking. 

If those prophecies were true, our travel advisors and our annual consumer research would be telling us a very different story. The scale of the financial loss and disruption from Thomas Cook’s collapse should not be minimized. However, with ASTA members, we look confidently to the future.

ASTA, which rebranded in 2018 as the American Society of Travel Advisors, is sticking with its new name, despite overwhelming evidence that people in all parts of the English-speaking world still use and prefer the term “travel agents”.

ASTA members represent 80% of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally based members, ASTA’s history of industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism.

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