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*This story originally appeared as a Travel Leaders Group press release

The increasing complexity of travel choices, weather events and a growing demand for experiential travel are increasing the demand for the services of travel agents, said Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko, CTC, today at The New York Times Travel Show.

During the keynote panel, Chacko—who leads one of North America's largest travel companies representing more than 40,000 travel agents—spoke passionately about the vital role today's travel agent plays as a catalyst for industry growth.

"The fact is that the travel agency industry is flourishing, and more people than ever are recognizing the value of the travel agent. Consider that we represent more than 40,000 travel agents and they are busier than ever. That's something to celebrate. The travel agency industry powers the growth and development of travel and tourism," said Chacko. "If you build it, they won't just come. Someone needs to help them get there."

For those reasons, Chacko said, Travel Leaders Group is naming 2018 "Year of the Travel Agent" and will kick off a campaign to include agent communications, social media messaging and media relations efforts to highlight the vibrancy of the agency industry. To mark the occasion, Travel Leaders Group distributed "Year of the Travel Agent" buttons and fliers to the more than 800 attendees at the travel show.

The campaign will focus on "12 Tenets of Travel Agents," including:

—Travel agents help you before, during and after the journey.

—Travel agents are travel experts.

—Travel agents provide peace of mind wherever you travel.

—Travel agents have access to exclusive benefits.

—Travel agents design personalized experiences for each unique traveler.

—Travel agents cut through the clutter of the internet.

—Travel agents read the fine print.

—Travel agents study hard to become specialists.

—Travel agents make your dollars travel further.

—Travel agents are real people, accessible in real life.

—Travel agents are globally connected.

—Travel agents are passionate travelers, first and foremost.

"Technology plays an outsized role as a means of researching, distributing and tracking travel information, inventory and bookings, but nothing can replace the expertise and personalized service provided by our travel advisors," Chacko said.

Experiential travel and the increasing demand for customization of the travel journey is fueling the growth of the luxury travel sector, Chacko said. "We're in the business of designing and delivering experiences."

Chacko is bullish on the future of the agency industry.

"More millennials are seeking out travel agents. In the midst of technological transformation, people still value the human touch. If you want to buy a dozen widgets, the Internet is fantastic. If you want to create memories for a lifetime, veer off the beaten path or engage in a transformative experience, you need a travel agent," said Chacko. "And, if something goes wrong, they've got your back."

Also appearing at the New York Times Travel Show on the "Focus on Luxury" panel was Gail Grimmett, President of Travel Leaders Luxury Brands, a collection of high-touch luxury agencies serving VIP leisure, entertainment, and corporate clientele.

As part of the "Focus on Luxury" panel, Grimmett outlined key luxury travel trends. "Luxury in 2018 is about access and authenticity...not the biggest suite or most luxurious hotels. Sometimes it is about connecting with the local culture, seeking out new experiences, sampling local cuisine and discovering something about your destination and yourself."

Travel Leaders Luxury Brands are part of Travel Leaders Group and include Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group.