ASTA Global Convention 2013

Hillary to Agents: You deserve more respect

by Robin Amster, Published in travelmarket Report

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a packed audience of travel agents that despite their indispensable services – and travel’s economic contributions – the travel agency industry doesn’t command a lot of respect. It deserves more, she said.

Clinton addressed an enthusiastic and attentive crowd at the closing session of ASTA’s Global Convention in Miami.

She noted that in her four years as secretary of state she traveled to 112 countries, logged 1 million miles and spent a total of 2,000 hours in the air.

Deep appreciation

“I have a deep appreciation for the magic you work every single day,” Clinton told the audience. “You help Americans follow their dreams.”

“Personal attention goes along way,” she said, citing the key services agents provide, including “immediate response, creativity and having someone looking out for you.”

She also acknowledged the travel industry’s role in “helping to keep our economy going.”

Opportunity for agents

Despite that, “there doesn’t seem to be a lot of respect for the industry,” Clinton said.

“I think agents have a real opportunity, as going online [to book travel] will get old because there’s no way to verify what you find on the Internet,” she said.

Clinton also offered ASTA a piece of advice.

“Maybe ASTA should come up with a slogan, something like. ‘To get what you really want—come to us.’”

Power of travel

Clinton also offered her thoughts on the importance of travel to the world, to the nation and to her personally.

“In an age where you can be anywhere virtually, it’s more important than ever to be there personally,” Clinton said.

She said she has witnessed the power of travel on the world’s political stage. She told the audience about her experience in Myanmar, where she met with that country’s former military rulers.

Myanmar’s generals had started traveling to other countries and seeing how other governments work, Clinton said. “I am convinced that travel helped change the minds of the military dictatorship of Burma.”

The country is now transitioning to a representative government.

Personal inspiration

Travel has also inspired the former secretary of state personally.

Clinton pointed to her first trip to South Africa where she met with Nelson Mandela, who had been elected that country’s first black president after spending 27 years in prison for his anti-apartheid activities.

If anyone had a right to be bitter and angry it was Mandela, Clinton said.

“But he made the choice not to lead his country divisively but to treat everyone as individuals with dignity and respect.”

First trip overseas

Clinton also told the audience of her first trip abroad in 1973. That summer she traveled to England with “a long-haired guy I was dating, a classmate of mine at Yale Law School.”

“You know him as the 42nd president,” Clinton quipped, referring to Bill Clinton.

Since that time – traveling alone with Bill or as a family with daughter Chelsea – “travel is in our blood,” she said.