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Travelers' Aid

Travel Agent Round-Up
August 25, 2000

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It's not easy being a travel agent these days: airlines are cutting commissions, it's becoming simpler to book travel online and now there are people actually impersonating them. No joke. Ads have been running in national newspapers for quite some time now saying that for 500 bucks or so, and no professional training, you can become a travel agent and enjoy all the wonderful benefits and perks like discounts on hotel rooms, rental cars and airline tickets. To find out if this was true I dialed up Robin Crandall. She's the Marketing Manager with the Institute of Certified Travel Agents, or ICTA, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She told me it is indeed possible to pay your money and get a card saying your a travel agent, but that doesn't make up for the training and experience a good agent needs.

We also spoke with Ellen Castleman of Pleasure Travel in Los Angeles. While she says there is no substitute for experience, that hasn't stopped throngs of folks from forsaking travel agents altogether. A study on the travel industry conducted by the New York research company PhoCusWright says that online booking was up almost double last year to 11 million people. It's just one more problem for travel agents to face.

And adding the the travel agent woes, late last year, many of the major airlines announced they're joining forces, to create an airfare supersite called "Orbitz." Orbitz promises lower fares than any travel agent and any current website can now give you. Only problem is, the U.S. Justice Department suspects the whole deal may be illegal. Since the airlines themselves are involved, Orbitz may violate anti-trust laws. Still, there's no official launch date for the site, and you can bet the legal wrangling is far from over.

Listen in to what these travel experts have to say about travel agents in the modern world.

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