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Americans get twitchy over use of term ‘travel agent’

January 30, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email


The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), which rebranded as the American Society of Travel Advisors last August, is prodding and begging the US travel industry to fall into line and start using the new name.

“It is critical that all industry stakeholders speak with one voice when it comes to describing our business,” ASTA pleads in an open letter.

“To that end, we are encouraging our member companies, supplier partners and anyone doing meaningful business through the travel advisor channel to add their name to the growing list of organizations that have made or are in the process of making the switch from “travel agent” to “travel advisor” in their consumer and trade communications.”

In Australia, “travel agent” is still the term used overwhelmingly. Australia tends to follow America, however, so it may eventually become “travel advisor” (or “adviser” – both spellings are correct. At least the word “agent” is spelt just one way.)

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) was founded in 1931 under the title American Steamship and Tourist Agents’ Association, back in the days when air travel was in its infancy. ASTA started using the term “travel agent” in the late 1940s, a decision that introduced and popularised the term around the world, though it was first used in 1925. See: World’s top travel association bans term ‘travel agent’

ASTA members now represent 80% of all travel sold in the US through the travel agency distribution channel.

Alliances like the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA, founded in 1957) and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA, founded in 1950) follow similar lines and have similar names.

Canada is still holding out

Will AFTA and ABTA (among others) follow the ASTA lead? Will travel agents turn into travel advisors? (We asked these questions last year, and they haven’t done so yet!) 

Here is ASTA’s Open Letter to the Travel Industry.

Dear Industry Colleagues:

In August 2018, our industry’s national trade association, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), announced to the world that it had rebranded as the American Society of Travel Advisors. This name change, the Society’s first in almost 75 years, embodies the revitalization of our part of the travel industry that has been taking place for several years and sends a critical message to the traveling public and the broader industry.

Today’s travel agents are no longer mere booking intermediaries. They have become trusted advisors — akin to financial planners and CPAs — who make the overall travel experience better and provide both leisure and business travelers maximum value for their travel dollar. The term “advisor” not only more accurately describes the value our members provide to consumers but also serves as a distinct declaration of who we work for: the traveling public. What’s more exciting is that the consumer media and, more importantly, travelers themselves are embracing this shift from agent to advisor.

In order to fully realize the benefits of this change, however, it is critical that all industry stakeholders speak with one voice when it comes to describing our business. To that end, we are encouraging our member companies, supplier partners and anyone doing meaningful business through the travel advisor channel to add their name to the growing list of organizations (attached) that have made or are in the process of making the switch from “travel agent” to “travel advisor” in their consumer and trade communications.

Is the term  ‘travel agent’ dated? It pre-dates this wartime poster, displayed at London’s Victoria Coach Station

We are experiencing a true renaissance in our industry, with consumers increasingly coming back to our members for the comparison shopping, unbiased advice, destination expertise and personal support that only a trusted travel advisor can provide. That said, terminology still matters and we hope you will join us as we move from agent to advisor.

Together in travel,

Zane Kerby
President & CEO
ASTA
Eric Altschul
Chief Executive Officer
ABC Global Services
Ernesto Lavandero
Director, U.S. Network
American Express Travel
Chris Dane
President
Hickory Global Partners
Bobby Godwin
Vice President
Leisure Travel Alliance
John Werner
President & COO
MAST Travel Network
Alex Sharpe
President & CEO
Signature Travel Network
Ninan Chacko
Chief Executive Officer
Travel Leaders Group
Kathryn Mazza-Burney
Executive Vice President, Sales
TRAVELSAVERS
Matthew Upchurch
Chairman & CEO
Virtuoso
Mike Estill
Chief Operating Officer
Western Assoc. of Travel Agencies (WESTA)

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Written by Peter Needham



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