Agents Support Quality Suppliers, ASTA Study Reports

Nearly 70 percent of agencies do not provide incentives to front-line agents for booking with preferred suppliers, the expectation being that travel agents will do what is best for the client and use preferred vendors when appropriate, according to ASTA’s newly released annual Supplier-Travel Agent Marketing Report.

Among the reports findings was the fact that those agencies that do provide incentives (69.4 percent do not) either give a percentage of the commission (57.7 percent) to the agent, a fam trip (27.9 percent), or some combination of other bonus types.

“This year has reinforced in all of us the importance of strong business partnerships and relationships built on proven reputation,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair. “Research reports such as this and others from ASTA allow travel agents and suppliers to learn how to best maximize resources and leverage partnerships to mutual advantage."

The report concluded that a strong relationship between suppliers and travel agents is imperative if both sides want to increase the amount of business they generate. ASTA’s report also found that 94.7 percent of agents who engage in a preferred supplier relationship do so based on the supplier’s reputation and quality of their product.

The conclusion that can be drawn is that suppliers that provide quality products and education have a greater chance of increasing their business opportunities with travel agents, ASTA said.

Among other findings:
*    Use of preferred suppliers was highest for the travel insurance, tour and cruise segments.

*    Most respondents (71.1 percent) indicated that the economic downturn has made their preferred supplier relationships even more important.

*    Apple Vacations continues to be the top incentive program by participation level. Sandals and Hertz follow as the second and third programs, respectively.

*    The use of airline and hotel websites has been slowly increasing these past four years.

*    Close to half of respondents attend one to two trade shows or conferences each year. 

ASTA conducted its annual Supplier – Travel Agent Relationship Marketing survey to assist travel agencies and suppliers in understanding and benchmarking typical agency-supplier business arrangements. The survey covered preferred supplier relationships, booking channels used, incentives and the usefulness of supplier education programs.

The survey was conducted in March of 2009 using the ASTA Research Family panel of agencies. 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 +/- 4.3 percent.