The reputation and quality of product is the most important factor when travel agents select a preferred supplier, new research released by ASTA says in its sixth annual Supplier-Travel Agent Marketing Report. The report says 94 percent of respondents ranked reputation/product quality as top criteria. This was also true when selecting a supplier at “point of sale.” The study provides a six-year trend on supplier relationships and travel agency booking channels by market segment, ASTA reports.
“Savvy travel advisors understand that a satisfied client is a repeat client, so when it comes to working with preferred suppliers agents look to those with the best reputation and product line,” said ASTA President and Chair Nina Meyer. “Studies such as ASTA’s Supplier-Travel Agent Marketing Report provide travel agents and suppliers with a better understanding of each other’s needs and a guide to how to best work together for mutual benefit.”
The report found that a strong relationship between suppliers and travel agencies is vital if both sides want to increase sales, ASTA notes. "A recurring theme in the survey results is the desire of agencies to acquire useful information about products. In most cases, that information is needed to determine the quality of the product as well as to help the agent sell the product to their client. Suppliers that provide the needed information in the best formats have an advantage," ASTA said.
Among other findings: Use of preferred suppliers was highest for the tour (88 percent), travel insurance (86 percent) and cruise (82 percent) segments. GDSs remain the top booking vehicles for airlines (58 percent), hotel (41 percent) and car (55 percent). Forty-eight percent of agencies find agency incentive programs to be “moderately effective.”
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. It is the only report of its kind that looks at preferred supplier relationships, booking channels used by agents, how incentives function, and the usefulness of supplier education programs from an agency point of view.
The survey was conducted using the 2011 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 rate and an error rate of +/- 4.5 percent.