Are Travel Agents Dinosaurs or Cutting Edge Marketers?

A new blog, sponsored by PhoCusWright research, offers travel agents a chance to express viewpoints and share insights on the future of travel agents and the travel industry. Douglas Quinby, senior director, research and author of PhoCusWright’s recently released landmark study, The Travel Agency Distribution Landscape 2006-2009, welcomes comments from agents and the industry.

“We would like to spark an informed debate and welcome insights and commentary on the report from agents, consortia, and suppliers – anyone concerned with travel distribution,” Quinby told Travel Agent. There is no charge for participating on the blog that is linked to PhoCusWright's home page. While some free extracts from the report are offered online, PhoCusWright charges for the full report that includes extensive interviews with agents and industry executives.

As discussion starters, Quinby notes that while traditional agents account for a significant share of the total travel market (38 percent in 2007) the share is declining incrementally (to a projected 33 percent by 2009). However, PhoCusWright notes pockets of growth in corporate and complex leisure. The report notes that travel agents booked $10 billion in air via the web and this total is growing. Another point remains that half of all agents in the leisure marketplace (home based and brick and mortar) are over 55 – raising questions about attracting new entrant agents and owners.

Only one in five agencies reported an increase in profitability, according PhoCusWright. Out of an estimated 24,000-agency locations, just 65 agencies account for 47 percent of all agency bookings. An estimated 26 percent of leisure agencies (about 4,600) produce under $1 million in annual sales, suggesting annual gross revenues under $150,000. After rent, utilities, other costs, how much is left for 1-2 agents per location, PhoCusWright asks.

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