On 'Nightline,' Liberty Travel shows how agents have thrived

By Johanna Jainchill

Liberty Travel, TV spotOffering a solid rebuttal to the comments made by President Obama last month suggesting that travel agent jobs had been lost to automation, ABC’s "Nightline" aired a segment last week declaring that many travel agencies have not only survived, but are thriving.

The segment noted that there are still 14,000 travel agencies active in the U.S., and that 94% of them expect to make a profit this year. (Click to watch the segment.) 

Out to understand how this was possible in the age of point-and-click, "Nightline" correspondent John Donvan visited New York City’s Liberty Travel storefront, where according to Liberty CEO Bill McDonough, more people are coming through the door today than five years ago.

While acknowledging that the Internet did "change the game," and that almost double the number of travel agencies existed in the 1980s than today, Donvan said that "backup, knowledge and price ... and the human touch" are keeping travel agents in business.

Jody Smith, director of product strategy for Liberty Travel, said that while the show’s airing was well-timed with Obama’s comments, ABC approached Liberty in June to do a show about companies that have survived the Internet.

"It was about what we’ve done and how we’ve changed our business model and are growing and expanding rather than losing out to the Internet," Smith said.

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