Agents' Use of Preferred Suppliers Up

While travel agents’ use of preferred suppliers has increased since 2006, their participation in consortia has decreased, down from 85 percent in 2006 to 78 percent in 2010, according to ASTA’s fifth Supplier-Travel Agent Marketing Report. ASTA’s study, released today, provides trend data on supplier relationships and travel agency booking channels by market segment.

The study also found that when it comes to choosing a supplier at the point of sale, “Reputation/quality of product” was the most important factor (86%), followed by preferred supplier relationship (70%).

"When it comes to booking a trip for their client, working with a reputable supplier and delivering a high-quality product are the driving factors for travel agents," said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair. "Ensuring that clients are happy with their trip is a travel agent’s number one concern as they want to build a long-term relationship with them. The data produced in studies such as this can help suppliers and travel agents determine what each party needs form the other and how to best work together to profitability."

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. Almost all (96 percent) agents who engage in a preferred supplier relationship do so based on the supplier’s reputation and quality of their product. The conclusion can be drawn 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 tour (88%), travel insurance (86%) and cruise (82%) segments.
• One-third of agencies provide front-line agents incentives for booking preferred suppliers.
• GDSs remain the top booking vehicles for airlines (63%), hotel (49%) and car (59%).
• Apple Vacations continues to be the top incentive program by participation level, followed by Marriott and Hertz.
ASTA said it 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 using the 2010 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% confidence with an error rate +/- 4.3%.



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