Travel agents say websites no threat

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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 include 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 that 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 again was defending its profession recently after the job-search site CareerCast.com listed travel agents among "useless jobs" that are becoming increasingly obsolete.

The list also included data entry, sign spinning and shoe repair.

Paul Ruden, senior vice president of the trade group, called the CareerCast list insulting and inaccurate.

Though travel agents in bricks-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, like 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.