National Travel Agent Day is tomorrow, May 2, and to celebrate Travel Leaders is spotlighting the value of travel agents with a fact sheet on the importance of agents to the traveler experience and the travel industry as a whole.
Top benefits of using a travel agent include expertise on hundreds of thousands of destinations and specialties, access to lower pricing and special perks, and time savings. Also important – agents can be an invaluable resource when things go wrong.
The travel industry also has a huge impact on the economy, according to data from the U.S. Travel Association cited by Travel Leaders. Travel generates $2.4 trillion in economic output in the United States, resulting in $164.8 billion in tax revenue. The travel industry is the seventh-largest private employer among major private industry sectors, supporting 15.6 million U.S. jobs and $258.8 billion in direct wages. That means that travel is responsible for 1 out of 9 U.S. jobs, making it among the top 10 industries in 49 states and the District of Columbia in terms of employment.
The travel industry – and travel agents – are also set to grow, Travel Leaders said. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of travel agents has grown in recent years. Total U.S. travel expenditures are expected to increase 5 percent in 2018, and, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), cruise travel is expected to grow to 27.2 million passengers this year versus 25.8 million last year. Ninety-five percent of members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) are projecting growth this year, and 87 percent of Travel Leaders agents are optimistic about their business in 2018.
The utilization of travel agents is also growing, Travel Leaders said. According to the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), airline ticket sales through travel agents were up 3.4 percent in 2017, to $88.5 billion. The USTOA reports that 84 percent of its members distribute their products through agents. Additionally, two-thirds of cruise sales are through traditional travel agents, and 8 out of 10 CLIA-certified travel agents say they are anticipating an increase in sales this year.