NEW YORK -- Some travel industry suppliers thought they could
replace travel agents, but that's not in the cards, ASTA president
Richard Copland told delegates to the Society's congress here.
Government also has overlooked the agent's role as a key element
in the travel sales equation, he said.
However, the Society president continued, in the wake of
terrorist attacks that severely undermined the travel industry,
both suppliers and the government are going to have to include
agents in their councils because "we're the ones who have the trust
of the traveler... [and suppliers] are going to need us more than
Copland said the travel world has changed dramatically and the
consumer is going to have an even greater need for information
about destinations and a need for advice about the new rules at
airports, train stations, cruise ship terminals and elsewhere.
And the source of that information is going to be agents,
Copland said, adding that "it will be the interaction between the
travel agent and the customer that will decide whether and under
what conditions America will travel again."
Copland said suppliers "are going to have to let us into the
Besides keeping agents informed, he said, suppliers have to be
"Nothing will deter advance travel planning more than inflexible
cancellation policies," he said pointedly.
He said it will be the trade's role to reassure customers, and
to that end, he urged agents to set an example by traveling
On the other hand, Copland said, agents won't push clients to go
places they aren't comfortable visiting, and indeed, their
counseling will mean sharing State Department advisories and other
safety information and sometimes steering clients away from some
destinations and toward others.
In his address to congress delegates, Copland said ASTA was
joining with American Express to ask every agent member to pledge
to send at least 10 people to New York in the next six months.
American Express set up a pledge board at its trade show booth
where delegates could make pledges in writing.
Copland turned, as well, to the original host city for the ASTA
congress this year, Seville, Spain, first thanking the people of
Spain for the time and money invested in planning the congress that
was then relocated to New York.
He encouraged delegates to recommend Spain and specifically
Seville to clients.
Ralph Ferrara, Schneider Travel in Butler, N.J., the ASTA
congress chairman, had made several trips to Spain in anticipation
of the event.
In his welcome remarks, he extolled the charms of Seville and
encouraged delegates to visit, "and if you have been there, please
promote the destination to your clients."