Responding To Obama, Travel Leaders Makes A Good Point

I gotta agree with Travel Leaders' take on a recent statement by President Barack Obama. The remark that drew the company's attention, spoken during a town hall meeting last week in Atkinson, Ill., was this: "When was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using an ATM? Or used a travel agent instead of going online? A lot of jobs that used to require people now have become automated."

In Travel Leaders' reply, company CEO Barry Liben highlighted "the human touch," indispensable when things don't go as planned. "When was the last time somebody went to their online site instead of going to a travel agent when they were stranded in an airport because of a terrible weather or worse?" Liben asked. It's a fair point, especially in the context of corporate travel (which clearly was not to what Obama was referring ... more likely, he was speaking about average Americans, including the countless corporate road warriors who book their leisure travel online via OTAs or direct supplier sites, but I digress).

While the bit about automation is reflective of trends in many industries, certainly travel, automation can't always save the day.

I also applaud Travel Leaders' tone. Normally, when I see press releases issued in reaction to something the president said--or perhaps didn't say--I find the reaction more egregious and self-serving than Obama's supposed attack on the industry. But here, Travel Leaders expressed its points in a positive way. While the company characterized its response as a "strong rebuttal," it was less of a rebuke and more of a reminder.