03 September 2011

Is BTC Right on ASTA or Not?

In the interests of equal time - I am publishing here the Open Letter BTC Gram from the tables of Radnor PA.

The background for anyone who missed it - is that President Obama made a reference to Travel Agents in a speech. Check the Economist for a balanced view of the situation. The pointed reference in the letter to "Industry Insiders" was perhaps aimed at the Professor and others who had the temerity to observe that ASTA's response contained a number of inaccuracies.

Check out the debate in Travel Weekly.

I read 2 perspectives on US Travel Weekly. Sadly the one I preferred seems to have been pulled off. http://www.travelweekly.com/Arnie-Weissmann/Obama-and-our-obsolete-language-of-polarity/

So here is the BTC letter, read it then you see if you agree. I have provided some commentary at the end:

August 30, 2011

ASTA Did The Right Thing In Responding To President Obama’s Comments About Travel Agents
BTC has read with interest stories and postings in the travel industry trade press regarding President Obama’s well-intentioned comments about technology and travel agents as well as industry and media response to them and each other. One central element would appear missing from the discussion and that is what we think inside the industry about this issue is largely irrelevant.
Meetings destinations like Las Vegas no doubt vividly remember the immediate and painful impact on business from the President’s words a couple of years ago, as did the corporate aviation business. Road warriors, once-a-year leisure travelers and young, up and coming business travelers recently heard over and again the President’s influential comments about travel agents. ASTA responded early in the news cycle to help prevent a perception of travel agents as yesterday’s resource from becoming an intractable false reality in the marketplace.
In BTC’s view, ASTA did the right thing to safeguard the businesses of its members. Likewise, Travel Leaders also fired back at the President, ostensibly to protect its business. It’s simply a prudent and necessary business response. To its credit ASTA’s strategy seems to have succeeded as evidenced by consumer business press coverage that included ASTA’s perspective in publications such as USA TODAY, The Economist and The Los Angeles Times.
Industry insiders screeching about business models, technology, new paradigms, erroneous statistics and the mistaken notion that ASTA is yearning for a bygone era is, in BTC’s view, inwardly focused and overlooks the central point of ASTA’s effective response to a potential threat to their members’ businesses. Congratulations to Tony Gonchar and ASTA for providing the precisely required leadership at the exact moment it was essential!
About Business Travel Coalition
Founded in 1994, the mission of the Business Travel Coalition is to bring transparency to industry and government policies and practices so that the managed travel community can influence issues of strategic importance to their organizations.
Kevin Mitchell

There were two great pieces by Kevin May in TNooz.

The first was a report on the flap itself. The second was an unusual publication of a response from ASTA itself. TNooz was right to publish both.

For absence of ambiguity. I think ASTA just put its foot in its mouth by presenting an inaccurate set of numbers and thereby destroyed its own credibility. The point it was taking was admirable if a little naive in my view. The world has changed. A large number of former traditional agents are gone. What remains is a core of hard working and valuable resource. However let's be realistic about the whole thing.

Ultimately logic and numbers will prevail. The concept of the old school Travel Agent who acted as an access into the supply chain has been swept away.

Today's Travel Agents are better. They just don't scale well. Sadly. BTC is not helping the cause in my view and only serves to make the issue worse. But then what do I know... For the record - I would hardly think anyone would label the Professor as an "Industry Insider". Perish the thought.


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