No quick turnaround in the economy and a decrease in revenues are anticipated by travel agents surveyed by ASTA during a recent webinar. The webinar was designed to provide travel agents with tips and resources on weathering an economic downturn. Of those webinar participants who responded to an online survey, 56 percent foresee a decrease in revenue in 2009, compared to 28 percent who believe their revenues will increase and another 16 percent who anticipate no change.
Further, a large majority (87.5 percent) either have or plan to take steps to curtail salary-related expenses, be it a reduction in hours, positions and/or salaries all in response to the economic downturn. This compares to 12.5 percent of the respondents who say they will increase staff salaries and number of positions.
“It seems clear that the economy isn’t headed for a quick fix,” said ASTA President Chris Russo. “Now more than ever it’s important for travel agents to align themselves with groups such as ASTA so that we can continue to have access to top-level business and marketing tools to help us successfully manage our business in uncertain times. Targeted resources such as yesterday’s webinar are vital to travel agents’ success when faced with a challenging business environment.”
The webinar included suggestions which agents can immediately implement, along with examples from ASTA members who have already taken creative approaches to shoring up their businesses. One suggestion was considering a work share program in lieu of a layoff. If an agency is located in a state that has implemented a work share program, agencies may be able to avoid lay-offs by reducing the work week and using unemployment insurance funds to pay workers short-time compensation. Another recommendation was to have employees update the customer database or develop one so that they can market services to new and old customers. ASTA also suggested agents consider buying an agency or take the opportunity to grow business though acquisitions.
ASTA reminded members use about the tools it provides, including ASTA’s Travel Agent’s Management Toolkit which includes a balance sheet, agent productivity/profitability tool and operating expense tool to help agents benchmark their business against other agencies. On January 21, ASTA will hold a webinar focused on using the Travel Agent's Management Toolkit in today's economy. Registration information can be found online in the industry calendar. ASTA members can access the full set of tips as well as other resources for weathering an economic crisis on www.ASTA.org.