ASTA: Rise in Travel Agent Usage in “Slight Pause” – Here’s What’s Next

Travel Agent
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“Overall there’s been a slight pause in the rise in the usage of travel agents,” Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), during a recent media luncheon coinciding with the launch of the new 2017 ASTA How America Travels National Study. The study, which delves into the top trends in Americans’ perceptions of travel and travel agents, was developed by ASTA in partnership with global research firm PSB.

One bright spot? Millennials continue to use travel agents more than any other age cohort, particularly when it comes to cruise travel.

“If you thought cruises were just for the grey, you’re wrong,” says Kerby. According to the study, 47 percent of Millennials have taken a cruise, and of those that have, 90 percent say that they would take one again.

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Of those who worked with a travel agent, 85 percent were satisfied with their experience, according to the report. Millennials were both more likely than older generations to have worked with an agent within the past five years and were especially likely to be satisfied with their experience, with 43 percent of Millennials saying they were “very satisfied” with their travel agent experience, versus 38 percent of Gen Xers and 36 percent of Baby Boomers.

This year ASTA’s study also included a number of focus groups spotlighting different segments of the traveling public.

“You learn different things from people when you’re sitting eyeball to eyeball,” explains Kerby.

One key takeaway from the new focus groups: travelers really like planning their own trips. That’s why, Kerby says, travel agents should work to insert themselves into the trip planning process.

“No one’s going to stop clicking around,” Kerby says. However, travel agents can work with a client to showcase the value agents can bring to the planning process.

Less than half of American travelers say they are “very confident” they can get the best price for their vacation without help, according to the study. Americans are most confident about booking hotels and airfare, with 47 percent saying that they are very confident they can get the best hotel price themselves and 44 percent saying they are very confident they can get the best price on airfare by themselves. The numbers are lower for cruises (24%) and tour packages (26%).

Travelers who have worked with a travel agent within the past five years are almost five times as likely to agree as to disagree that travel agents “look out for their clients,” with 35 percent strongly agreeing and 43 percent somewhat agreeing.

Cost and time savings are two key factors when selling potential clients on the value of a travel agent. 57 percent of those who have never used a travel agent say the would be more likely to do so after being told that agents save their clients an average of over $300 per person per trip. One quarter of respondents who have never used an agent would be “much more likely” to do so. When it comes to time savings, 52 percent of all travelers either strongly or somewhat agreed that agents can save clients a significant amount of time. Those who had used a travel agent within the past five years were even more likely to cite time savings, with 80 percent of those respondents either strongly or somewhat agreeing.

The 2017 ASTA How American Travels National Study was an online survey of 1,522 Americans ages 25 – 70 conducted April 9 – 14, 2017, as well as a series of six focus groups of various segments of the American traveling public conducted February 15 – 21, 2017. The study had a margin of error of +/- 2.51 percent.