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ASTA Benchmarks Revenue, Labor and Agent Compensation

September 30, 2011 By: George Dooley Travel Agent

New ASTA research offers fresh insights into the changes underway in travel distribution. With the travel industry showing halting signs of improvement even as the overall economy continues to struggle, ASTA's two just-released studies —the 2010 Service Fee Report and the 2010 Labor & Compensation Report—provide agents with essential data to benchmark two of a business’s most important components, salary and revenue.
“With continued downward pressure on the economy, suppliers and agencies alike are challenged to decrease their costs of operation and strengthen their company’s revenue and market share,” said Tony Gonchar, ASTA CEO.
“The data found in ASTA’s just-published studies provide a solid framework for agencies to benchmark their current position and make necessary adjustments to their business model,” he added.
Ever-changing market forces have pushed many agencies to expand their service. According to ASTA’s 2010 Service Fee Report, of the agencies that have fees, 94 percent charge for air bookings, 63 percent charge for making rail reservations and 61 percent assess a fee for trip planning.
ASTA’s 2010 Labor & Compensation Report found that full-time agent and management categories showed strong salary growth in 2010, while the percentage of agencies providing benefits has stayed steady, perhaps in reaction to the difficulty many travel agencies are experiencing in hiring new employees, especially those with industry experience.
Among the survey’s findings are:
    •    The majority of agencies (88 percent) charge service fees today.
    •    Trip planning has seen the strongest increase in the average fee amount charged (+35 percent).
    •    The percentage of agencies charging a fee for cruises is low, but growing over time, up from 17 percent in 2007 to 22 percent in 2010.
    •    Of those agencies charging fees, almost a fifth of total agency revenue (19 percent) is comprised of service fee revenue, up from 10 percent in 2002.
    •    Service fee revenue as percentage of total revenue dropped a small amount for corporate agencies.
    •    The movement toward commission-only compensation has stopped after a high of 29 percent in 2008. Today, most agents are compensated by salary alone.
    •    On average, salary accounts for 75 percent of compensation for those agencies that use a salary/commission mix.
    •    Referrals are the number one method for finding new employees, up from 47 percent in 2008 to 70 percent in 2010.

The 44-page Service Fee report examines average service fees for air, cruise, tours, car, hotel, rail and other bookings, as well as for such services as visa application assistance. The report includes benchmarking data that takes an in-depth look at service fee revenue as a percent of total revenue, consumer attitudes toward fees, and the percentage of agencies that also charge consultation fees.
The 42-page Labor & Compensation report, meanwhile, includes benchmarking data on compensation packages, hiring practices, salary ranges (broken out by region, company size and business model) and benefits. The report looks at salaries for entry-level agents, as well as travel agents with five or more year’s experience.
ASTA conducted these studies to provide the travel agency community with the latest service fee and compensation benchmarking data. These are the only reports of their kind that examine service fee and compensation changes from an agency point of view, ASTA reports.
The ASTA Research Family is comprised of a representative sample of ASTA member travel agency owners and managers. The service fee report indicates an error rate of +/- 2.3, while the compensation report shows an error rate of +/-2.5.
Premium Members will receive these full reports at no cost, and travel agent members will receive free three-page summaries, but may also purchase each entire report for $99. The cost for ASTA supplier members is $349 per report. Non-members pay $549. For additional information, please contact [email protected] or visit the research page on


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About the Author

George Dooley
George Dooley, Travel Agent’s senior contributing editor covering retail and technology, has a long-standing reputation as one of the top travel industry journalists. He notes...

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By George Dooley | September 30, 2011
Suppliers and agencies are challenged to decrease their costs of operation and strengthen revenue and market share.
Filed under : Trends-Research