Support your local agent

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I am a creature of habit. What some people might think of as a rut, I think of as freedom within structure. So, whenever I land in another city, my first order of business is to set up a routine.

Part of that routine is establishing a "local." In Strasbourg, a little pool hall in Petite France fit the bill.

The first person I met there was a Strasbourg travel agent, Andre Laget. Over the course of a few days we had several conversations about the industry and about the ASTA congress. Andre wasn't too keen on the convention. Why? Because, he said, local travel agents didn't see one dime of revenue from the event.

According to Andre, a group of local agencies had been brainstorming with Strasbourg city officials about the ASTA show for more than a year when the rug was pulled out from under them. All of the ASTA business, ground transportation, beds, meetings, the whole nine yards -- business the local agencies fully expected to get -- went to a Parisian firm, he said.

The reason? City officials apparently felt that the local talent wasn't polished enough to handle such an important event. The larger Paris firm, they said, was more reliable than the group of smaller Strasbourg agencies that had pooled their resources to develop an ASTA proposal.

The upshot is that while Strasbourg's hotels and restaurants are raking in the ASTA dough, local travel agents are left twisting in the wind. What a raw deal.

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