Despite the economic slowdown, revenue as a percentage of sales remained steady in the 10-percent range for all agent respondents even in 2009 in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, ASTA reports in its newly released Financial Benchmarking Report.
“While agencies of all sizes were able to keep relatively stable when it comes to their sales and revenue ratios, the industry as a whole was forced to make changes in how we conducted business in response to industry shifts and downturns,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair.
“The in-depth data contained in ASTA’s Financial Benchmarking Report gives an agency the ability to analyze its business against industry norms and determine if their products are the best revenue-generating mix for their business model,” Russo said.
The study found that the commission model remains strong for leisure agencies, especially for cruise and tour sales. Unlike tours, cruise has also seen the average revenue derived from service and consulting fees rise. It increased to a 34-percent share of total revenue. In 2007, only 25 percent of cruise revenue was derived from fees. This suggests agents are augmenting their commission revenue with fees.
Among the study’s other findings:
• Between 2007 and 2010, the number of full-time employees (FTE) holding management positions decreased, while number of the independent contractors in similar positions increased.
• Overall annual compensation increased between 2007 and 2010.
• Mid-sized agencies saw the largest drop in gross sales per front-line agent between 2008 and 2010.
• As expected, salaries and benefits and outside contractors represent the largest portion of operating expenses.
• Larger agencies are more productive when measured by total sales per FTEs, while smaller agencies have much lower operational expenses per FTE than larger agencies.
• Compared to leisure agencies, corporate travel agencies have higher compensation and sales per agent.
• Cruise and tour sales provide the most lucrative revenue per transactions for agencies.
• Service fees accounted for 44 percent of revenue for all ARC air transactions, on average.
• Commissions accounted for 51 percent of revenue for non-ARC air transactions, on average.
• Commissions remain the largest source of revenue for cruise and tour sales.
The full report is available for purchase for $549 to non-members. ASTA Allied members pay $349 while Premium members receive the full report at no cost as part of their membership. Travel Agent members receive a complimentary 2-page summary of the report; those interested in receiving the full study receive a discount and pay only $99.
The ASTA Research Family is comprised of a representative sample of ASTA member travel agency owners and managers. The report indicates a +/- five percent error rate.