132,00. That’s how many travel agents were in operation in the United States in 1990, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). By 2014, that number had dwindled by half to about 71,000 and the projections for the next ten years indicate a continued decline by about 12 percent. On the surface, these statistics would seem to spell doom for traditional travel agents who are facing increasingly intense competition from online travel agencies, development of new technologies like mobile apps, and other user-driven sites like AirBnB.
Yet, these stats don’t fully represent the value and potential for growth travel agents pose within today’s global travel industry. With today’s modern traveler placing a greater emphasis on unique travel experiences, individually curated tours and activities, and a person-to-person connection in researching and completing travel bookings, traditional travel agents are actually uniquely positioned to expand their footprint and reach more customers than ever before.