2011 promises to be a banner year for home-based travel agents, according to the results of the Year-End Member Survey conducted by the Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN). Nearly nine in 10 responding agents (89 percent) reported they are optimistic that their business will increase this year, and 65 percent said their profitability as home-based travel sellers increased last year, OSSN reports.
In another positive sign for the home-based channel, 91 percent of OSSN agents surveyed find more suppliers supporting home-based agents these days.
"These survey numbers confirm what we see every day within OSSN: The home-based agent channel is thriving in today's economy," said Gary M. Fee, OSSN's president and founder. “Home-based travel sellers have greater operating efficiencies and lower operating costs, so they're well positioned to succeed when times are tough."
More results from OSSN:
• Home-based agents are very experienced retailers. Contrary to lingering perceptions that these agents tend to be new to the industry, 52 percent of the respondents have been in the travel business for at least 10 years. And another 20 percent have sold travel for at least five to 10 years.
* They're very proactive in pursuing sales. Seventy-six percent plan to create a marketing plan for 2011, and 56 percent use a database to track and market to their clients (with another 25 percent planning to start a database in the new year).
• These agents continue to rely on proven tools to build their businesses. Fifty-two percent of the surveyed agents use the Travel Retailers Universal Enumeration (TRUE) system as their travel industry booking code (followed by 23 percent with the CLIA number and 22 percent with an IATA number)
• Forty percent have a host agency, and 25 percent joined a consortium in 2010.
• They reported more diversity in the ways they book air. Thirty percent use airline websites, 30 percent use consolidators, 9 percent use a host agency, and 22 percent use some combination of these methods or alternatives.
• They face ongoing challenges with technology tools. Twenty-four percent of the agents do not have a web site yet, 24 percent get hardly any traffic from their sites, and 12 percent said they need help with their sites.
• Almost 1,600 OSSN agents around the United States completed the online survey in late December 2010. (Respondents were limited by the survey technology from submitting responses more than once.) The complete survey results may be viewed here: http://www.ossn.com/ossn_survey/2010yearendsurvey/index.html.
• Founded in 1990, OSSN is the largest trade association in North America dedicated to serving the needs of home-based travel agents, representing nearly 8,000 agents with 80 chapters throughout the United States.