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ASTA Reports Hiring Shortfalls Despite Downturn

July 14, 2009 By: George Dooley

ASTA’s newly released Labor and Compensation Report found that hiring demand by agencies has decreased with the economic slowdown, but even with industry-wide consolidation and reports of lay-offs, travel agencies are still finding trouble filling vacancies. ASTA’s survey found starting salaries for agents without experience to be very low compared to similar industries, perhaps making it difficult to attract prospective travel agents with the education level desired.

Both ASTA’s Labor and Compensation Report and the Financial Benchmarking Report released today are designed to give travel agencies the tools they need to improve and update their operations.  ASTA believes information provided in these reports will help agencies benchmark their sales and revenue, operating expenses (including salary), compensation and benefits, and the productivity of the full agency and individual agents.

“Increasingly, travel agencies need to reassess their business operations to keep up with changes in the industry,” said ASTA President and Chair Chris Russo. “ASTA is dedicated to helping agencies survive and prosper as the travel and economic environment continues to change."

The Financial Benchmarking report analyzed revenue data to determine trends in revenue share and found that products such as tours and cruises obviously still have significant commission revenue, while in other categories service-fee income is the primary revenue source.

Among the findings of ASTA’s studies:
• The number of agents compensated by salary only dropped from 52 percent in 2004 to 44.3 percent in 2008.
• The average salary for a travel agent is $30,458 whereas the average starting salary is $20,912.
• Respondents have had the most success in finding potential hires through word-of-mouth and the local newspaper.  
• The average length of employment for a travel agent is 10.2 years.
• The average full-time staff equivalent (FTE) was 10.3 in 2008, based on responses from all respondents.
• The survey found that the average annual sales per agent was $832,022.

The full report is available for purchase for $950 to non-members. ASTA Allied members pay $550 while Premium members receive the full report at no cost as part of their membership. Travel Agent members receive a complimentary 2-page summary of the report; those interested in receiving the full study receive a substantial discount and pay only $350. 

For information, contactn Melissa Teates, ASTA’s director of research, at [email protected].

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