This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in furnishing travel information and arranging tours, transportation, rental cars, and lodging for travelers. Establishments primarily engaged in arranging and assembling tours directly to travelers or through travel agents are discussed in SIC 4725: Tour Operators.
561510 (Travel Agencies)
Travel agents have been significantly affected by two factors in the early 2000s. First, travelers are increasingly using the Internet to book their travel, bypassing traditional agents. Second, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 brought all travel—both business and leisure—within the United States to a screeching halt. In the aftermath of the attacks, security concerns and a depressed economy left agents with few customers. Just as travel agents were looking for consumers to regain confidence in the safety of travel and as the economy showed the first signs of recovery, the United States entered into the Second Persian Gulf War in early 2003, once again leaving Americans feeling the need to stay close to home.
Although experts agree that the economy as well as the travel industry will eventually rebound, even if consumers overcome their cautionary feelings regarding air travel, the future role of travel agents is made murky by the every-growing use of the Internet to plan and book travel arrangements. Agents will also have to deal with less-than-perfect relations with airlines, cruises, and tour groups—all of whom are themselves struggling to stay afloat.
The travel agency industry is young, dynamic, and in a relatively constant state of transformation and growth. While no longer expanding at the explosive rate (almost 20 percent annually) of the early 1980s, the industry continues to grow—in terms of the number of locations—by nearly 6 percent every year. During the 2000s, mergers and acquisitions are expected to substantial, and the mega-firm is expected to be an increasing important facet of the industry.
Regional Distribution. Travel agencies can be found in virtually every community in the United States. The greatest share of travel agency locations has been in the eastern United States (30 percent), with the western United States close behind (28 percent). The South has a 22 percent share, and the Midwest has 19 percent. Central city locations account for more than 50 percent of the total, and the uneven growth of the 1980s—with the suburbs and small towns gaining disproportionate numbers of locations—not only subsided, but reversed itself. The share of rural and town locations dropped quite significantly to 9 percent, from nearly 12 percent in the late 1980s. With the emergence of Satellite Ticket Printers (STPs), automated ticket distribution machines began to replace branch offices altogether, a trend that may well continue.
Consolidation. In examining location revenue trends in the travel agency marketplace, the pattern seems somewhat obscure. Not only is the proportion of larger agencies (those with more than $5 million in revenue) growing rapidly, but also the proportion of smaller ones (grossing under $1 million) is increasing at an equally conspicuous rate. The percentage of the industry's large locations has risen steadily to 11 percent, and their share of total industry revenue has risen to more than 33 percent. At the same time, small locations make up almost 30 percent of the industry. While seemingly contradictory, these trends are, in fact, results of the same overall movement of the industry toward consolidation into a number of "mega-agencies," or regional and national branch and franchise networks. Such firms have the resources to set up large offices in prime locations and to establish small branch agencies that are run in coordination with the main offices. Whether or not these smaller branches are profitable, they do augment name recognition, which is of utmost importance to any agency in this increasingly competitive market.
The steady expansion of the industry in the 1990s had a completely different character than the boom period advances of the 1980s. The segment of the industry that expanded most in the 1980s—comprising the majority of the independent, single-location agencies with between $1 million and $5 million in revenue—came under pressure. The majority of agency locations still fell into this category in the 1990s, but it was a dwindling majority. Especially significant was the decrease in agency locations at the lower end of this group—those grossing between $1 million and $2 million—which were not as eagerly pursued by the acquisition-minded mega-agencies as were those locations with greater revenues.
The high level of consolidation activity in the travel agency industry is best assessed through the steep upturn in acquisitions. Almost a third of all agencies have acquired another agency already, and there are no signs of the buying spree slackening. In 1991 American Express Company purchased Lifeco of Houston, a firm whose airline ticket sales exceeded $1 billion annually. This acquisition provided a new scale for the already highly charged marketplace environment. Many smaller agencies also felt they had much to gain in terms of access to the latest technological innovations and overall support than they had to lose in giving up their autonomy. For this reason, they pursued buyers. Typically, the cost of purchasing an agency location is set at between 3 percent and 7 percent of its latest annual sales.
Smaller Agencies. Despite the industry's consolidation, it remains first and foremost an industry of small businesses. Even in the face of intensifying competition, single-location firms still make up the vast majority of agencies, and in addition, they have successfully developed alternative business strategies to stay afloat. One common tactic is to seek out corporate clients—89 percent of all agencies handle at least one corporate account. While only large agencies can manage the travel accounts of most medium-sized and large corporations, these accounts make up about only 28 percent of all the corporations that use travel agencies. The rest (those with fewer than 100 employees) compose a huge market for the services of smaller agencies. The average number of corporate accounts an agency manages dropped to 38 from a high of 43 in 1989, proof that small agencies have made inroads into the realm of business travel. Quite simply, more agencies are attracting fewer business clients: certain companies may feel better served by an agency without too many other commitments. The particularized service that a small agency can provide has proven to be an effective selling point in building an agency's business travel base.
Promoting themselves in terms of the unique, personal service that they offer, small agencies have also secured a place in the leisure travel market, a market in which the travel agent is often solicited as an advisor to the traveler. Although not widespread, there has been some noteworthy fragmentation of the leisure market into agencies specializing in travel niches (e.g., student travel, or travel to a certain part of the world).
Consortiums. Membership in travel consortiums is seen as a way of benefiting from consolidation without ceding direct control of the business. Through consortium membership, an agency develops close working relationships with other member agencies. An increase in purchasing power results in significantly higher override commissions from preferred suppliers and in cheaper access to expensive services that foster office efficiency. These immediate paybacks, however, are not the only focus. Many agencies feel consortiums, through annual meetings and newsletters, ensure that they remain up to date on broad developments in the industry. Consortiums also give travel agents a unified voice that increases their ability to influence supplier developments that affect them. In the 1990s nearly half of all U.S. travel agencies became affiliated with a consortium of some sort, and there are few signs of this trend slowing, since business travel consortiums have begun to catch up to leisure travel consortiums in membership numbers.
Of course, consortiums are not only set up for small agencies, and the growing number of business travel associations are welcoming more and more mega-agencies. Access to consortium arrangements will ultimately serve to protect the travel agency industry from complete consolidation by ensuring that it retains some degree of its small-business character while still adjusting to the increasingly complex demands of the American traveler.
Trade Associations. In seeking greater efficiency and better returns in the 1990s, an industry proliferated with independent operators, consortiums, and mega-agencies still sought a kind of uniformity. Market-driven joint ventures were not, however, the only coordinating mechanisms that served to integrate the industry. For example, several large trade associations act to influence government policy decisions on behalf of the travel complex as a whole. These associations also provide educational services for their members and promote the benefits of using travel agents. The largest of these trade associations, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), boasted 29,000 travel agents in 170 countries in 1999. Seventy to 75 percent of this nonprofit organization's funding comes from its member dues, the rest from an annual conference. The second largest trade association, the Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA), has a much smaller membership—3,000 travel agents—and a more specific agenda of promoting their interests. Other important travel agent associations include the Travel and Tourism Research Association and the Alliance of Independent Travel agents. Related associations include the American Bus Association, American Hotel & Motel Association, and Cruise Line International Association.
While providing services for travel agents, such associations also legitimize the trade itself. Because only Rhode Island requires its travel agents to be licensed, an ASTA or ARTA membership offers assurance to both suppliers and consumers that an agent has some qualification beyond the easily obtainable agency accreditation, which is granted by the Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC). In what has become a very technical field, there has been an increasing need for further standards of expertise, and educational bodies such as the Institute of Certified Travel Agents (ICTA) have begun to serve a crucial role. The ICTA, a 16,000-member association that seeks to improve the level of competence within the industry, offers a course through which agents can become Certified Travel Counselors (CTC), a title that already carries significant weight within the industry. Another certification which has come into demand with the growth of corporate travel is that of Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), which allows an individual to oversee every aspect of a business meeting.
Nine states currently require some regulation, certification, or registration of retail sellers of travel services: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Ohio, Rhode Island, Washington, Iowa, Florida, and Oregon.
Suppliers. Travel agencies rely entirely on commissions from their suppliers. Commissions, as a rule, are set at 10 percent of a booking, but slightly different arrangements can be made with each supplier. Travel agents may contact several suppliers to set up an appointment with each or use one of two coordinating bodies accepted by various suppliers as a kind of clearinghouse establishing the validity of agents. ARC agents are allowed to use standard ticket stock for more than 100 domestic and international carriers. ARC also provides weekly reconciliation of sales, refunds, exchanges, and commission payments to travel agents via a third party. While ARC appointment is not required of agents, it would be difficult to provide full services without it. A minimum of $20,000 is required to be appointed or retained by ARC. This acts as both a financial screen and a protection against default.
Airlines are the only suppliers who give significant commission overrides (marginally higher commissions) to agencies with which they have a preferred supplier relationship, whether negotiated through a consortium or through the agency itself. These overrides appear to be relatively effective in influencing agents' booking habits. More than two-thirds of all agencies book particular carriers in order to receive overrides, and these locations obtain overrides on about a third of all the air tickets they book. It is more common for overrides to be passed on to a business client than to a leisure client, mainly because the market for corporate accounts is highly competitive and, because of the higher prices a corporate traveler generally pays for last-minute scheduling, the commission will already be substantial. The use of overrides for leisure travel is on the rise, however, as it becomes an increasingly competitive sector.
The industry's dependence on air travel resulted in a marked consistency of products offered by travel agencies. Airline tickets make up nearly 60 percent of a travel agency's business on average, more than all other "travel products" combined. This attachment to the airline industry poses problems for some travel agencies, and so has prompted an effort within the industry to decrease dependence on airline ticket sales. With air travel continuing to increase, however, this dependency may be unavoidable. The remainder of a travel agency's business comes from cruise bookings (which make up 16 percent of total industry sales), hotel bookings (12 percent), car rentals (8 percent), and rail travel and other bookings (4 percent).
Tour and vacation packages, organized through tour operators with minimum arrangements, have increased in popularity. Packages allow for better control of costs in advance, and assure the customer that they will be taken care of in case of an emergency. For agents, they are easily put together and provide higher, more dependable commissions. Specialized tours (often called Foreign Individual Tours or FITs) are becoming confined to the luxury market, a welcome trend for agents because FITs are often time-consuming to organize.
Car rental companies use a variety of strategies to lure travel agency business, including commission incentives, free client upgrades, low familiarization trip rates, and frequent contests. Regardless of what kind of inducement is offered, however, car rental bookings are still generally viewed by agents as an added service for their clients. More often than not, an agent will make car reservations based on the efficiency and dependability of the car rental company's system rather than on what rewards are being offered. Payment of commissions has become less of a problem as car rental companies have begun to centralize their payment systems and have designated full-time agent assistants to deal with travel agent inquiries or commission payment concerns. In 1997 a New York State Court of Appeals ruled that rental companies cannot refuse to rent automobiles to drivers on the basis of age. Drivers under 25 or 21 were routinely denied rental because of higher accident rates. Since other states are considering similar legislation, this could, according to a Hertz Corporation spokesman quoted in ASTA Travel Industry Headlines, give car rentals "virtually unlimited exposure" to insurance liabilities.
As more hotels acknowledge their dependence on travel agents for reservation bookings, the relationship between the two industries is greatly improving. Evidence of this is seen in the effort by many hotels to simplify and speed up the payment of travel agency commissions. In the past, commission payments could take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months and come with confusing statements from branch hotels. Now, a large hotel company, with a centralized commission payment system, issues payments and statements regularly from one office that deals with individual branch problems internally. Such centralization safeguards travel agents from having to spend valuable time chasing down commissions and makes agents far more comfortable in booking hotel reservations.
STPs and On-Site Agents. In order to meet corporate demand for efficiency and specialized service, two strategies were adopted to better manage the travel accounts of large companies. Some agencies are offering to install satellite ticket printers in corporate offices so that a ticket and/or boarding pass can be distributed directly and immediately to the client. Some 13 percent of all agencies use such delivery systems, with the average number for an agency location being three. A smaller but growing number of agencies have gone so far as to set up on-site departments for their major clients (those who contribute more than $41 million in sales, for instance). Such departments, which are run and paid for by the agency but work in client-supplied office space, give the company more direct control over its travel arrangements and thus create savings and enforce travel policy. On-site agents also work in conjunction with in-house travel departments to set budgets, negotiate with vendors, and create travel expense reports.
The Early Years. Because travel agency surveys have only been taken since the early 1970s, it is difficult to speak with much certainty about the state of the industry prior to this time, except to note that it bore little resemblance to the industry of the 1990s. ASTA was founded in 1931 as a society for steamship agents, at a time when steamships and trains were the predominant means of travel. A small group of agents booked tour packages and cruises in these early days. Later, with the spread of air travel, particularly with the introduction of larger passenger jets in the 1960s, travel agencies became much more prominent. Despite their prominence, travel agencies still remained a select group. For a long period of time, an agent actually had to be appointed by an airline commission in order to book airline tickets. In many ways this obstacle spurred the industry's expansion into car rentals and hotel bookings. For many years, however, travel agencies remained essentially unsustainable without inside connections to the airline industry.
The Deregulation Watershed. In 1978 the Carter administration's airline deregulation legislation, designed by Alfred E. Kahn, chairman of the Civil Aviation Board, transformed the industry completely. In just three years the number of agency locations rose by 30 percent, from 14,804 in 1978 to 19,203 in 1981, and the average revenue per agency was up 23 percent, from $1.3 million to $1.6 million. Such broad-based, steep increases were, and remain, unparalleled and clearly point to deregulation as a watershed in the history of the travel agency industry. By eliminating fixed pricing and opening up air travel to competition, deregulation allowed more people to travel more cheaply. The benefits of travel agency services also suddenly became much clearer. With a floating market, and new airlines either popping up or going under with shocking speed, travel agencies were in a better position than anyone else to find the best ticket at the best price. Companies suddenly forced to trim budgets also came to be recognize travel agencies as the most cost-effective mode of ticket distribution.
Since the early post-deregulation years, travel agents' enthusiasm for airline competition has cooled somewhat. In particular, the frequent price wars create havoc for travel agencies. When special fare offers are made, for instance, not only are agents unprepared, but their reservation systems are rarely loaded with new fares fast enough to avoid problems. Despite the fact that agencies continue to handle nearly 80 percent of airline ticket sales, no true partnership has evolved between the two industries. As a percentage of all travel agency revenue, revenue generated by the airlines has, in fact, fallen moderately from 63 percent in the early 1980s to around 56 percent. Both sides have tried to reduce their co-dependence; the airlines have developed frequent flier programs as alternatives to preferred supplier relationships, and travel agencies have built closer ties to other suppliers.
A number of travel agents and tour operators were upset when the U.S. Travel and Tourism Agency was eliminated in 1996 along with its $16.3 million budget. This made the United States the only major country without a national tourist agency. Private industry stepped in, and the new United States National Tourism Organization Act was passed by the United States Senate in September 1996. It is estimated to have an $80 million budget to promote the United States to foreign tourists. Patterned after the U.S. Olympic Committee, the National Tourism Organization is funded by business sponsors who pay an annual fee to use its logo in advertising and promotion. The organization's avowed goal is to put the United States back on top of the international tourism market.
Despite a leveling off in overall growth, the U.S. travel agency industry remains vibrant and is well-placed to benefit from the promise of future increases in both leisure and business travel. Even in a prolonged recessionary period, cumulative agency revenues have remained up, and it appears that there is still some room for agencies to grow within the travel complex. While they have no real competition in airline ticket sales, tours, and cruises, their proportion of the car rental and hotel reservation markets show room for growth. Even without any marked improvement in their relationship with these two suppliers, however, the industry is so closely aligned to the airline and cruise industries that the years ahead, while they may show further consolidation and cost containment, will surely be prosperous. In addition, the recent focus on airline industry upheaval and the Clinton administration's commitment to airline industry reform was welcome news to agencies who continue to depend on that sector of the travel economy. With the outgrowth of consortiums and mega-agencies, travel agencies have more leverage than ever before, which will enable them to play a significant role in airline industry reforms. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, travel agencies have proven themselves flexible enough to adapt to the everchanging habits of American travelers.
Travel is currently the leading services export in the United States, bringing in $93 billion (including water transportation) from 46.4 million international visitors in 1998, which was $18.7 billion more than U.S. travelers spent abroad that year. Travel and tourism is also the third largest retail industry, next to automobile dealers and food stores. Total 1998 output from both domestic and international travel was approximately $1.2 trillion, which was 13.6 percent of the Gross National Product (GNP). The entire industry employed 7.6 million people in 1998, up from 6.6 million in 1995. Travel within the United States continues to represent a large segment of the industry: in 1998, Americans spent $424 billion on travel away from home without leaving the country. According the U.S. Census Bureau, travel agencies brought in approximately $11.1 billion in receipts for 1998.
Post-deregulation commissions continued to drop through the latter 1990s as commission caps, ticketless travel, and cost cutting all began to take their toll. In October 1999 airlines cut their commissions to travel agencies down to 5 percent, the third reduction since 1995. In effect were a $50 commission cap on round-trip domestic flights and a cap of $100 on international flights. Electronic ticketing and Internet booking remained the biggest threats to travel agency income. According to ASTA, however, travel agents were still booking about 80 percent of all flights in 1999 despite the continued threat of direct online purchasing. Some of the most frequented Internet travel sites in 1999 included BizTravel.Com, GetThere.com, Priceline.com, and Travelocity.
Travel Weekly' s "1999 U.S. Consumer Travel Survey" reported that travel agents ranked higher than doctors, lawyers, and stockbrokers with respect to the value provided for the work (they were out-ranked by teachers, pharmacists, and accountants). Notwithstanding, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that Americans lose $12 billion yearly in travel fraud, mostly from nonregistered agencies.
The entire travel industry was rocked by the events of September 11, 2001, when four commercial airplanes were hijacked by terrorists concurrently, with two crashing into the New York World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and another brought down prematurely in Pennsylvania by passengers on-board who struggled with the terrorists. The horrific events sent shock waves through the nation, and travel ground to a halt. Travel expenditures fell significantly. In 2000, U.S. consumers spent a total of $570.5 billion on travel. In 2001 that figure dropped to $537.2 billion and dropped again in 2002 to approximately $525.1 billion.
Travel agents are attempting to cope with the stagnant travel industry by focusing less on air travel and more on cruises, vacation packages, alternative means of transportation (e.g., rail and bus), as well as revenue-boosting vacation add-ons such as spa packages, shopping trips, or special evenings-out. However, even when the economy recovers and people begin to travel again, the Internet clearly will remain the agents' long-standing competition. Expedia.com, Priceline.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, and Cheaptickets.com are proving to be worthy opponents. Some predict that the future of travel agencies will involve a fragmenting into numerous small agencies that primarily handle upscale cruises, local travel, and cruises and large "mega-agencies," who will operate both offline and/or online to provide a mass marketing approach to consumers looking for discounted prices.
The market arena is also changing for travel agencies regarding airline commissions. A trend beginning in 1995 when commission fees were reduced by Delta, in 2002 the major airlines finally pulled the trigger on what travel agents had expected: zero commissions. The move could save airlines up to $1 billion annually, and it is also intended to push travelers to book directly with the airline via online reservation options. With no commission-based revenues, most agencies were forced to increase services fees. Although a vast majority of agents were not pleased with the airlines' decision to do away with commissions, most had plans in place to accommodate a new fee-based structure.
American Express is the world's number one travel agency as well as being a diversified financial services company. In 2002 American Express posted revenues of $23.8 billion. Carlson Wagonlit Travel Inc. is the second largest travel agency. In 2002 the company posted revenues of $11.0 billion, down 8 percent from the previous year. World Travel BTI ranks third in the United States, with sales of $3.8 billion in 2001.
Leading online agencies include Priceline.com, with 2002 revenues surpassing the $1 billion mark; Expedia, with 2002 revenues of $590 million; and Travelocity, with 2002 revenues of $308 million.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 193,000 people employed within the travel agency industry in 2001. Of this total, 98,640 were travel agents, and another 11,000 were reservation and ticket agents. The mean annual salary for a travel agent was $27,110. General and operations managers, which accounted for under 3 percent of the workforce, earned a mean annual salary of $64,540.
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and the Institute of Certified Travel Agents (ICTA) both offer self-study and group courses. There are no federal licensing requirements, but nine states require some form of registration or certification. Employment of travel agents is expected to grow through 2005, primarily by the establishment of new agencies. The full impact of changes in the industry has yet to be determined. The industry is sensitive to the economy, the perception of air safety, and political crises.
With greater economic pressures, though, agencies have been slowly turning away from straight salary compensation and moving toward compensation packages that combine salary and commissions. Such plans are viewed as ways to ease the strain of flat revenues and rising salaries while bringing employee earnings in line with productivity. Agents paid in this manner (21 percent of all agents) tend to earn 6 to 11 percent more than their straight salary counterparts. Compensation packages have increased competition among agents, however, and concern for a friendly office environment has kept most agencies from resorting to paying commissions, which generally range from 25 to 30 percent of an agent's total earnings.
Benefits packages have also been an area of debate in the industry, with rising health insurance rates the primary focus. Only 31 percent of agencies cover the full cost of their employees' health insurance, and the numbers are decreasing. To help small independents, ASTA has a nationwide health plan that covers more than 1,000 agencies, but the costs are still regarded as far too high by many employers. Still, health insurance ranks second behind familiarization trips as the benefit most commonly provided for by the employer. Agencies that are willing to share some of the costs of such packages can offer substantially lower wage contracts. With skyrocketing health care costs, agents are focusing more and more on benefits packages when choosing an agency.
Travel agencies have provided fertile ground for the application of cutting edge computer technology. Computer reservation systems (CRSs) are used by all but 4 percent of the industry. Of the five CRS vendors, Sabre has the largest market share of the industry at 35 percent; the other vendors include Apollo (23 percent), System One (20 percent), Pars (17 percent), and Data II (9 percent). Agents have become very comfortable with using CRSs and have started to employ them in uses beyond airline bookings. More car rental companies and hotels can be accessed through CRSs than tour companies and cruises, and agents have responded by making the majority of both their car and hotel reservations (68 percent and 53 percent, respectively) by computer. The most important specialized software to appear in conjunction with CRSs is the fare-auditing scan, which checks a system for better fares and/or routing. Such software has already given many large corporate agencies an invaluable marketing tool. Other quality-control software, such as automated accounting systems (used by 51 percent of all agencies), should continue to proliferate within the industry. The U.S. Department of Transportation, in fact, expected to issue new CRS rules that will make it easier for agencies to buy third-party software and hardware for accessing their CRSs.
The emergence of Satellite Ticket Printer Networks (STPNs) and Electronic Ticket Delivery Networks (ETDNs) promises to have a major impact on travel agency ticket delivery. Starting in 1986, STPNs allowed agencies to set up ticket machines on client premises. The advent of third-party ticketing networks, used by agencies that cannot afford to establish networks themselves, has given agents the ability to issue tickets through their STPNs at a number of different locations. New networks are being developed that are essentially the same manner as STPNs but are not agency accredited by the Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC). The ARC is expected to approve them, however, and many envision ticketing locations popping up in much the same as automated bank tellers machines. Without agency accreditation, though, ETDN vendors will neither sell tickets nor offer any kind of travel counseling.
Electronic ticketing and bookings via the Internet are revolutionizing the industry. Because of reduced personal interaction, electronic tickets promise to slash transaction costs. Several airlines are promoting direct self-ticketing. USAir Group Incorporated has provided its Priority Travelworks disks, which allow online reservations to 70,000 of the 19 million people in its frequent flyer program. United Airlines Incorporated sells its online connection for $24.95 a year but also provides for free drinks coupons and headsets. It also charges $2.50 per hour of connect time which is waived with the online purchase of a ticket. Northwest Airlines Incorporated's online registration is available through Compuserve. Delta, TransWorld Airlines Incorporated, and others plan to introduce their versions. The airlines are well positioned to capture online traffic because of their share in reservation systems such as Sabre, Apollo, and World-span, which are used by travel agents.
Hotels, travel agents and quasi-travel agents have also taken to the Internet to allow do-it-yourself bookings to save costs, frequently providing access to databases previously reserved for travel agents and posting significant sales. For example, the Marriott hotel chain allows reservations over the Internet. The travel industry has embraced the Internet at a pace second only to the computer industry, but there are mixed reactions as to the impact of the Internet on travel agencies. Some feel that the ability to make one's own reservations and bookings will eliminate the need for a travel agent, but there is also the speculation that the fundamental role of the travel agent will remain unchanged; that is, they will continue to act as travel consultants because of their knowledge of the industry, although they may work in-house for larger corporations.
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