ASTA told the White House Thursday that travel agencies sell more than 50% of travel in the U.S., in response to President Obama’s statement on Wednesday that travel agents are among the jobs that have become automated.

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Atkinson, Ill., President Obama 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 an ATM. Or used a travel agent instead of going online? A lot of jobs that used to require people now have become automated.”

“While the President’s intention surely was not to disparage the travel agency industry, his statement makes clear the need for greater education and understanding of the TonyGonchar-NEWimportant role travel agents play in today’s travel marketplace,” ASTA CEO Tony Gonchar said in a statement. “ASTA has communicated with the President to ensure he understands the contribution travel agent make to the economy.”

In the White House letter, ASTA said that the U.S. travel agency industry “is comprised of nearly 10,000 U.S.-based travel agency firms operating in 15,000 locations. We have an annual payroll of $6.3 billion. Most importantly, our businesses produce full-time employment for more than 120,000 U.S. taxpayers.”

The letter also stated that the U.S. travel agency industry processes more than $146 billion in annual travel sales, accounting for more than 50% of all travel sold, including more than 50% of all airline tickets, more than 79% of tours and more than 78% of cruises.

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