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Travel agents are a friendly bunch, they have the best insider knowledge, they give you service for free, they help your dreams come true, they are there when you need them in a pinch, and your advocates when things go really bad.

All of these cliches can be found in one Facebook post by, who else, the voice of the travel agent industry, Travel Weekly. Every one of these are lines that the agent industry uses to market itself in its existential struggle for relevance in this digital age.

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And yet, this is the reality, data from Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the declining number of travel agents in United States:

Year Total employed (in thousands)
2007 111
2008 98
2009 72
2010 76
2011 69
2012 73

And this is what BLS says about the “Job Outlook” scenario for travel agents in United States, for the coming years:

Employment of travel agents is expected to change little through 2016. Travel agents who specialize in a travel destination, type of traveler, or mode of transportation will have the best chances for success.

Employment change. Employment of travel agents is expected to increase by 1 percent, which is considered little or no growth. As spending on travel and tourism rebound from recent recessionary periods and as more travelers begin taking more exotic and customized trips, the demands for the specialized services offered by travel agents will offset the service lost to Internet bookings for simpler itineraries. The ease of Internet use and the ready availability of travel and airline websites that allow people to research and plan their own trips, make their own reservations, and purchase their own tickets will result in less demand for travel agents for routine travel arrangements.

There will be, however, many consumers who still prefer to use a professional travel agent to plan a complete trip; to deal with more complex transactions; to ensure reliability; to suggest excursions or destinations that might otherwise be missed; to save time; or, in some cases, to save money. In addition, higher projected levels of travel, especially from businesses and retiring baby boomers will offset the loss of routine transactions. Furthermore, luxury and specialty travel is expected to increase among the growing number of Americans who are seeking out exotic and unique vacations and a growing part of travel agents’ business is organizing and selling tours for the growing number of international visitors.

Photo Credit: No1 Lady Travel Agent. Andrew Ashton / Flickr