Travel agencies have begun to see strong value in their websites, with an average of 27 percent of client requests coming through their website, representing 18 percent of all agency revenues, ASTA reports in its latest 2010 Technology and Web Usage Report. Online bookings that increased the most between 2001 and 2010 were air, car rental, and rail.
The survey is the only report of its kind that specifically looks at online booking revenue, Internet usage, Web 2.0 marketing, and website development from the agency's' point of view, ASTA notes. The survey also looks closely at how agencies use the Web for supplier research and booking.
"Travel agents are very adept at using the Internet for research, gathering travel industry information and for booking travel, and today, many are also using the Internet and some form of social media for marketing," said ASTA President and Chairman Chris Russo. "Rather than being pushed out of business by the Internet, as many had predicted, travel agents have embraced it and are leveraging its power to enhance their operations."
Interestingly, the survey also found that while 81 percent of agencies reported booking airline travel on the Web, more than 70 percent of ASTA agencies that book air assist customers with booking ancillary services online (42 percent) or by phone (30 percent). This, ASTW says, suggests that the complex and often hidden nature of airlines' ancillary fees adds additional work and time to the overall airline purchase transaction.
Among other findings:
• Seventy-eight percent of respondents indicated that they have a Web site, a figure which increased slightly over last year.
• Fifty-two percent of respondents named Facebook as their most used networking and marketing technique, citing its ease of use in connecting with current and potential customers.
• The percentage of travel agencies that book directly on supplier websites dropped in 2009 and has held at 81 percent for two years.
• The percentage of total agency bookings made through supplier websites decreased in 2010 to 40 percent, from 45 percent in 2009.
• Online bookings that increased the most between 2001 and 2010 were air, car rental, and rail, which went up by 110 percent, 126 percent and 139 percent, respectively.
• Forty-three percent of agencies have an online tool on their site.
• Most agencies use their Web site to provide an e-mail link to their agency (90 percent) or to promote their areas of specialty (80 percent) and travel deals (75 percent).
• Most agencies (58 percent) use their own e-newsletters or e-mail promotions to promote their website.
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 +/- 4.4 percent.
ASTA’s Premium Members will receive a complimentary copy of the full report as part of their membership. Travel agent members may access a free two-page summary on ASTA.org, but can also purchase the entire report for $99.