The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) conducted two surveys in 2006 that asked member agencies questions about their Internet usage, technology usage and their agency's web site. The 26-page 2006 report was compiled to help agencies evaluate their business practices in these areas. The report includes benchmarking data on Internet sites, online booking rates by travel segment, web site practices (designing, maintenance, updating), web site features, and web site-generated business. Trends in usage are also covered.
ASTA tallied up the responses, interpreted the data and issued the following summary to all of its members (Premium Members received an enhanced version of the report):
Gathering information and booking travel increasingly involves the use of the Internet for both the public and travel agents. Over the past decade, virtually all agents have begun using the Internet to conduct research and/or book online. However, at this point Internet sales through their own sites are not yet a major source of income for most ASTA agencies.
Agencies with a web site account for 76 percent of surveyed agencies. This is up slightly from 2005, when 67 percent of agencies reported having a web site.
Most agencies use their web sites to provide basic information, such as e-mail links to staff at the agency and areas of specialty.
Just under half of all agencies provide links to travel suppliers and another 46 percent provide online information request forms that can be used to obtain travel information without visiting or calling the office.
Most survey respondents listed "an informational vehicle for current clients" as the primary use of their web site.
The vast majority of agencies with Internet access are using the Internet for researching topics such as client destinations, vendor information and other general travel information.
Tours continue to be the number-one product booked online by ASTA agencies.
Nearly 78 percent of agencies that have booked online report they have used airline web sites when making reservations compared to 64 percent in 2001. This percentage most likely will increase when this survey is repeated due to the changing trends in booking patterns.
Travel suppliers across all modes of travel are providing consumers and travel agents with fast and user-friendly web-based reservation systems to book their products and some sites are exclusively oriented to travel agents.
The percentage of online bookings compared to overall agency bookings is becoming increasingly significant; however, for most agencies, it is still a small percentage of all bookings.
The ASTA Research Family (those polled) is comprised of a representative sample of ASTA member travel agency owners and managers. Percentage of respondents who have booked directly on a supplier's web site
The reply level for the two surveys indicates an error rate of +/- 4.6 percent representing the total ASTA agency membership. This is considered to be a good error rate sample with very reliable results.
For more information on ASTA, visit www.astanet.com.