When panel moderator Lalia Rach, the founding dean of New York University's hospitality school, asked the audience at CLIA's Cruise3sixty conference in Vancouver if they considered themselves "travel agents," not a single hand went up.
Those people who sell travel preferred job titles like "travel professional" or "travel adviser."
Carolyn Spencer-Brown of CruiseCritic.com, in blogging about the event, noted that for a consumer, "travel professional" is ambiguous.
"Couldn't that term encompass flight attendants and hotel executives and cruise ship crew members?" she asked.
The panelists said the problem was the image that the term travel agent carried.
"The cruise industry image has changed so much, but the image of the travel agent is still so dated," said Josephine Kling, co-founder of Landry & Kling, which specializes in cruise ship charters.
Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch, who was inducted into CLIA's Hall of Fame and honored at the Cruise3sixty gala dinner, said in an interview that he agreed that the term "travel agent" might not best convey what Virtuoso agents do. But he also said that simply changing titles wouldn't help the image of a travel agent.
"The problem is everybody gets that they don't want to be called a travel agent, but they don't get how they fundamentally become a travel adviser," he said. "Just calling yourself a travel adviser doesn't mean a darn thing if you don't revolutionize the way in which you find clients and interact with clients.
"People who truly have relationships with trust, who are proactive and look at customers in a holistic way, who are not just transaction-oriented... they are travel advisers," he said. "If you are in business trying to read the brochure faster upside down than your client... who cares what you call yourself?"