Passion and knowledge are basic fare for travel agents. Industry changes have forced them to specialize and to develop strong relationships with clients and vendors.

Airlines have cut agency commissions, and the Internet, rife with tips and bargains, is fierce competition.

Agency consolidation is common. Executive Travel was acquired on July 1 by Short’s Travel Management, which previously acquired Passport Travel in Kansas City.

Yet many industry insiders are optimistic. Annual sales by U.S. agents total between $120 billion and $130 billion, according to the American Society of Travel Agents.

Agents still sell nearly 90 percent of all cruises, more than half of all airline tickets, and more than 80 percent of all tours and packages.

Strong bonds are equally important for agents and travel managers working with corporate travelers.

“It’s a partnership more than ever before,” said Rosanne Green, corporate travel manager for Short’s in Overland Park. “We have to make sure they know they’re important to us.”

Get the full story at The Kansas City Star