Last week, an article published in Woman’s Day originally titled 10 Things Travel Agents Won’t Tell You started a firestorm in the travel industry. Usually, columns like this offer tips and tricks like point beyond ticketing and hidden city tickets. They may tell you to ask about existing groups to mooch in on the amenities or perks. They might tell you what day of the week might be better to book your travel. But this one was different. They went on for 10 points explaining how travel agents were out to screw consumers. And that’s how the fight started!
To be honest, I have never been more proud of the industry. We sat back while our airline “partners” took away a lot of our income. We continue to sit back and watch the cruise lines whittle away at commissions while increasing NCFs. We look the other way as virtually every travel supplier is putting on a full court press towards direct to consumer booking. But this…this article stirred up the hornet’s nest.
It was obvious to the industry (and I really think to any consumer) that the author was so off the mark and unqualified to write on the topic. Some of her sources were no longer in business and another does not even recall being interviewed. I wonder if she simply Googled “travel agents” and picked a few names for this work of fiction.
But the industry took notice and hit Woman’s Day with a vengeance. As of this writing there are 1,344 comments, virtually all of them from agents setting them straight. ASTA weighed in and sent a letter to the Editors of the magazine, all of the operating entities of Travel Leaders sent letters. Vicki Free of Royal Caribbean sent a letter explaining how valuable agents are to the consumer. And all that Woman’s Day could do is delete one of the points which was unequivocally incorrect and re-title the article, 9 Things Travel Agents Won’t Tell You. Oh, and a very weak apology appended to the bottom of the article.
Many people and companies (including TRO) have tried to reach out to the author and so-called expert, Anne Roderique-Jones, but apparently she is hanging with Edward Snowden in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. She has not returned our emails sent to three addresses we found. She has closed her Twitter account from the public and seemingly gone into a self-imposed exile. Well, with several hundred travel agents after her, I am not sure I can fault her for that!
While not admitting they were wrong (which they were), Woman’s Day has agreed to publish two more articles in an upcoming print issue and again later in the year online. They have suggested they will work with ASTA to make sure the message is truthful and on point.
If nothing else, this proves that the industry can come together if needed. It is unfortunate that it took such a derisive article to do so. We do have organizations on our side and this is proof positive that they will act on our behalf when needed. When something is not right in your travel world—speak up. Most everyone is (or should be) affiliated with some sort of agency advocacy organization—franchise, consortia, ASTA, NACTA, OSSN, or ARTA. Make your small voice heard and encourage others to speak up as well and when enough voices speak, the message comes through loud and clear—right Woman’s Day?