We recently ran a survey of the home-based readers of Travel Agent to get their gauge on what’s happening in the industry. We launched our survey in October, and here we present the complete results.
More than 360 agents responded to the online survey, which ran from October 27 through November 26.
Of the agents we polled, almost half (46.7 percent) describe their business infrastructure as being home-based working through a host agency. So when we eliminate the traditional brick-and-mortar agents or the independent contractors affiliated with them, we get a better idea of how many home-based agencies work with host agencies, and the percentage jumps up to a significant 61.7 percent.
And it’s an experienced group. Half of the respondents reported being a travel agent for more than 10 years, and—on a promising note—nearly 35 percent report being an agent anywhere from one to five years, showing that there is some new blood coming into the industry.
When asked specifically how long they have been home-based agents, close to a third (31.7 percent) fall in the two- to five-year range, and another quarter from five to 10 years. Again, we see a growing market here, with more than 25 percent reporting that they have been home-based travel agents from less than a year up to two years.
The Top Destinations
When it comes to destinations, the Caribbean rules. Among home-based agents, just under half (46.4 percent) say that the Caribbean is their most popular booking, by an overwhelming margin. Coming in at a distant second is Mexico, with 16.8 percent, but don’t be surprised to see that percentage rise this year as more properties and resort destinations there are developed. The U.S. and Canada are close behind Mexico, at 14.8 percent, and also may increase in popularity, depending on the economy.
Cruises top home-based agents’ sales offerings, with 44.8 percent of all agents selling more cruises than tours or hotels and resorts. This figure is pretty consistent year to year, as cruises continue to be regarded as the most profitable travel product.
When we look at annual sales volume, the majority of home-based agents fell in the $25,000–$100,000 range (1 percent) and $101,000–$500,000 (36.9 percent)—which represented year-to-year improvements for both groups. In 2008, 28 percent reported in the $25,000–$100,000 range, while 31.4 percent reported $101,000–$500,000. Some of that may be attributable to inflation based on fuel prices, but most agents did report an increase in actual volume.
Comparing their 2008 sales to 2007, just over 40 percent reported that sales were up, while 27 percent reported no change. The bad news here is that more than 30 percent reported a drop in sales for the year. Obviously, fuel prices and the resultant airline fees had an impact here. In 2008, before higher fuel prices really took hold and the overall economy was still stable, only 14.7 percent of agents reported a drop in sales. That’s certainly a trend to be concerned about, with more than double the number of agents as one year ago reporting lower sales figures.
Overall, however, there is some positive news: Home-based agents tend to book about $8 billion in travel each year. And when asked about their business prospects for 2009, nearly three-quarters (71.3 percent) of agents considered themselves “optimistic."
Check out the data in chart and graph form in the slide show below.