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Tuesday, September 02, 2014         

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'Useless' label irks travel agents

By McClatchy News Services

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The digital revolution has imperiled the future of many job categories, including darkroom film processor, typewriter repairman and telephone operator.

With the surge of sophisticated travel websites, can we put travel agents on the list of nearly obsolete jobs?

As you might expect, the American Society of Travel Agents doesn't think so. The trade group, which represents more than 5,900 travel agents and travel firms, rejects the notion that travel websites will eventually put warmhearted agents out of work.

The trade group was again defending its profession last week after the job search site CareerCast.com listed travel agents among "useless jobs" that are becoming increasingly obsolete.

Paul Ruden, senior vice president of the trade group, called the CareerCast list insulting and inaccurate. Although travel agents in brick-and-mortar offices handle only about 25 percent to 30 percent of air travel bookings, he said most agents focus primarily on booking complex trips, such as corporate travel or cruises and tours.

"Travel agents are alive and well and they do a robust business by providing expertise and advice to millions of travelers every year, using a combination of new and old technologies," Ruden said in a letter to CareerCast.com.

Site forecasts rise, fall in hotel rates

Travel booking sites have become so sophisticated that some say they can save you money by predicting future prices.

Bing.com and Kayak.com, for example, offer price-predicting features that forecast the fares of airline tickets in the near future.

Now TheSuitest.com, a hotel booking site, includes "The Hotel Time Machine." Once you pick a room, the feature tells you the chances that the rates will rise or fall within the next 30 days and the likelihood that the hotel will sell out.

"We developed this so people would have an idea of whether they can save money by booking now or waiting to book in the future," said Jeremy Murphy, a former analyst at Goldman Sachs, who founded the website with Michael Aucoin, a former senior engineer at Microsoft.

The website's predictions are not a guarantee, and Murphy won't refund your money if you pay too much based on a faulty prediction.

--Hugo Martin / Los Angeles Times






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