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ASTA Reports Growth In $10+ Million and Home-Based Segments

March 2, 2010 By: George Dooley

Only 34 percent of ASTA agencies realized a profit in 2009, according to the new 2010 ASTA Agency Profile. ASTA also reports a significant increase in the number of agencies with sales of either less than $1 million or greater than $10 million, up almost 87 percent and 116 percent respectively since 2002. Further, comparing 2003 with 2010, the percentage of ASTA home-based travel agents has grown by 312 percent. The data emerges from a recent survey of ASTA members—the 2010 ASTA Agency Profile—that identifies trends in the industry.

“No doubt the past year has been challenging, but there are signs of positive growth in the travel industry and in the minds of the traveling public,” said ASTA President and Chair Chris Russo. “International travel, when compared to domestic, is growing for travel consultants, and they continue to be the main point of sale for most non-air travel. Travel consultants have proven to be resilient and resourceful and will continue to thrive.”

Other data of note from ASTA’s research include:

• Sales of hotels (23 percent), cruises (18 percent) and tours (6 percent) all saw strong increases in percentage share in 2010 when compared to 2002.

• More than a third of current ASTA members have joined the Society since 2001.

• Seventy percent of ASTA agencies use an Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC) identification number, with only 4 percent taking advantage of ARC’s new Verified Travel Consultant option.

• Seventy-nine percent of ASTA members belong to a consortia and/or franchise. This is the first time membership in a consortium has dropped below 80 percent in the past decade

• For the first time, reporting agencies expect international sales to be a larger percentage (55 percent) of their overall sales.

According to the survey, only 34 percent of ASTA agencies realized a profit in 2009, which was a decrease of 5 percentage points over 2008. The number of agencies that said they operated at a loss increased when compared to last year’s results.

The percentage shares of international sales has increased over the last six years and for the first time agencies expect international sales to be a larger percentage of sales (55 percent international and 45 percent domestic in 2010).

ASTA agencies report that leisure products make up an average of 78 percent of total sales and corporate sales make up the remaining 22 percent of sales. The ratio has shifted very little.

The percentage share for legal status has slowly shifted away from Subchapter S corporations, while sole proprietorships and LLCs have increased.

Seventy percent of ASTA agencies use an ARC identification number. IATA, TSI and CLIA

identification numbers were the next two most cited numbers with 67 percent and 50 percent, respectively.


The majority of business communications with clients is conducted by phone (52 percent). However, the trend clearly shows the percentage of phone communications dropping as the percentage of business conducted by Internet increases (28 percent).

The largest percentage of agencies is still in retail locations with multiple employees. The second largest percentage is agencies based at home with multiple employees.


Percent Share


Home-based agency with one employee (yourself) 11 percent

Home-based agency with more than one employee 16 percent

Independent Agent with host agency affiliation 3 percent

One Retail Location (open to walk-ins) with one employee (yourself) 5 percent

One Retail Location (open to walk-ins) with more than one employee 41 percent

One Office Location with one employee (yourself) 1 percent

One Office Location with more than one employee 10 percent

Multi-locations 11 percent

Other 2 percent


The largest percentage of respondents fell in the 55- to 64-year-old category followed by the 45- to 54-year-old category. Most respondents are managers, agency owners or agency CEOs, therefore the average is skewed upward compared to the general travel agent population.

Comparing 2003 with 2010, the percentage of agents based at home has grown by 312 percent. ASTA’s Agency Business Trends Report (November 2009) found many small- to mid-sized agencies either moving to a home-based model or considering it for financial savings. Overall, retail locations have seen a larger drop than office locations.


The average number of full-time employees is eight, the average number of part-time employees is three, and the average number of Independent Contractors (ICs) is 12. All three categories are down compared to 2009 reflecting the economic conditions in last year.

The vast majority of agencies still operate with one or two employees. Almost half of agencies do not use part-time employees or ICs at all.

The ASTA Research Family is comprised of a representative sample of ASTA member travel agency owners and managers. The report indicates a 95 percent confidence with an error rate +/- 3.8 percent.


For further information about the study, please contact Melissa Teates, ASTA’s director of research, as [email protected]. The ASTA Agency Profile report can be downloaded at no charge. Simply visit and complete a simple registration form. Visit



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By George Dooley | March 2, 2010
Profits hard to achieve in 2009 as agents struggled in down market.
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