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‘We don’t have travel agents,’ Obama tells TV interview

September 25, 2013 Corporate, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59“We don’t have travel agents; we don’t have bank tellers.” Those words, uttered by US President Barack Obama on US television, have sparked an outcry in America’s travel agency community.

Obama inferred that the jobs had disappeared. He was being interviewed for an episode of ‘This Week’ on American television channel ABC News and he was discussing the increasing automation of American business as it emerges from the Global Financial Crisis.

“If you go to a lot of companies now, they’ve eliminated entire occupations because they are now robotised,” Obama said. “We don’t have travel agents; we don’t have bank tellers.”

You can hear the comment in this YouTube clip of the interview. Obama makes the remark just after the four-minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cy-E9D0E5c 

What bank tellers think about it is unknown, but travel agents are understandably touchy on the topic. Several recent magazine articles have suggested agents are on the road to oblivion (although other articles have said the opposite).

What profession wants to be used as an example of an occupation that no longer exists?

It’s the second time Obama has dismayed agents through a glib reference. During a debate in 2011, he said: “… one of the challenges in terms of rebuilding our economy is businesses have gotten so efficient that – when was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using the ATM, or used a travel agent instead of just going online? A lot of jobs that used to be out there requiring people now have become automated.”

Perhaps bank tellers (who still exist, as you discover if you enter a bank) should get together with travel agents and mount a joint campaign.

As it is, US agents are stressing that they represent the human touch. The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has gone further, pointing out that the travel industry consists of “nearly 10,000 US-based travel agency firms operating in 15,000 locations” with an annual payroll of USD 6.3 billion and over 120,000 US employees.

Ironically, just days ago, former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton addressed ASTA’s convention in Miami and told delegates how important travel had become in opening minds and making the world a more peaceful place.

At the same convention, figures were released showing that nearly a quarter of ASTA agents had reported a revenue increase of 10% or more in the first half of this year.

Written by : Peter Needham

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