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ASTA, NACTA Study: Independent Travel Agent Sales Up

March 1, 2012 By: George Dooley Travel Agent

Independent agents got a boost from a new study that reports, for the second straight year, 57 percent of independent agents saw an increase in business in 2011. The results are according to the 2011 NACTA Independent Agents Report, the latest joint report from ASTA and the National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA).
“Results from the report confirm that travel is gaining economic ground and independent agents are a critical part of the sales equation for suppliers,” said ASTA CEO Tony Gonchar. “As this sector of travel agents continues to grow, we want to ensure suppliers are able to get an in-depth understanding of what drives the independent travel agency community.”
“Independent agents are strong generators of new business, especially group travel,” said NACTA Vice President Ann van Leeuwen.”This growing segment is not only changing the way travel agents conduct their daily business, but how travel is promoted and sold.”
While the sale of cruises remains a primary source of income for independent agents (57 percent), it is down considerably from 2011, when 75 percent of independent agents said they were cruise specialists.

Today, the study reports, a small but increasing number say they specialize in a specific destination (9 percent), tours (6 percent) and honeymoon sales, luxury travel or family travel (5 percent each).
The study, which examines relevant trends within the independent travel agent industry, also found that:
    •    the largest share of agents (56 percent) have been in the travel business for more than 10 years down slightly from 2011 when 57 percent reported a similar time in business.
    •    88 percent of respondents say they work out of their home, compared to 87 percent last year.
    •    35 percent of respondents reported having employees and/or independent contractors, up from 33 percent last year.
    •    of the 86 percent of respondents who say they split commissions with their host agency, the average host split is 74 percent/26 percent. In 2011, 91 percent of agents split commissions with the same breakout.
    •    for those who pay an annual fee (6 percent), 47 percent of respondents pay less than $200 annually. In 2011, 50 percent of respondents reported paying less than $200.
    •    most independent agents (70 percent) do not use a Global Distribution System, up from 67 percent in the year prior.
    •    as in 2011, Royal Caribbean was the top cruise supplier used by respondents. Globus was the top choice for escorted tour operator. Sandals was ranked as the top choice among resort suppliers; Marriot was the top hotel supplier.
The ASTA/NACTA report profiles independent agents and provides data on their experience in the travel industry, looking specifically at how they book travel and split commissions, as well as their revenue share across travel segments, and more.
Evaluation surveys were distributed via email to 1,762 NACTA members by the ASTA Research Department; responses from 542 were collected online in June 2011. This reply level indicates a minimum of 95 percent confidence with an error rate +/- 3.5 percent, representing the total NACTA independent agent membership.
The full report, valued at $299, is complimentary to NACTA Bronze-level and above suppliers and host sponsors.

All NACTA travel agent members, Member suppliers and hosts will receive a 2-page summary at no charge as part of their membership. NACTA and ASTA members may purchase the entire report for $99. Non-members pay $299. For additional information, 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 | March 1, 2012
Independent agents are strong generators of new business, especially group travel.
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