What Travel Agents Are Earning

Travel Agent
Photo by AIMSTOCK/Vetta/Getty Images

More travel agents moving the industry are pulling down average salaries for leisure travel agents, while a wave of retirees are pushing up salaries for corporate agents. That’s according to data from Hot Travel Jobs’ travel agent survey. The organization just closed the latest survey, and it is now releasing portions of its analysis of the data over time.

First up is Hot Travel Jobs’ salary analysis, which shows that the average national salary for leisure travel agents fell by 7 percent in 2017, from $46,101 to $42,875.89. Salaries were highest in the southwestern United States, at a little over $78,000, followed by the northeast at $47,000 and the west at $46,000.

Salaries for corporate travel agents, however, rose by 12 percent last year, from a national average of $47,814 to $53,520. For corporate agents, salaries were highest in the northeast, at over $56,000, followed by the west, at $55,000.

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What’s behind the changes? Hot Travel Jobs noted that their salary information aligned with recent research reported in The Travel Institute’s The Changing Face of Travel Agents study. That report, which was based on data collected in December 2017, found that there has been a massive shift toward independent contractors (ICs) over the past decade, with 71 percent of agents working primarily as employees in 2008 to 62 percent working primarily as ICs in 2017.

The Travel Institute also found that ICs tended to be newer to the industry than employees, as well as more likely to be part-timers pursuing a new career in travel – both career stages which are more likely, on average, to have lower salaries than full-time employees with more experience in the travel industry.

As for corporate travel agents, Hot Travel Jobs speculated that there has been a drop in qualified workers as more agents reach retirement age. Previous reports from Hot Travel Jobs have indicated that more and more travel agents are planning for retirement, and a lack of workers in the corporate agent space would tend to drive up salaries.

Hot Travel Jobs’ salary data covered 2017. Looking ahead, recent reports indicate that overall growth for travel agents could be flat this year, with MMGY Global predicting flat growth in the use of travel agents this year. Summer travel, however, will continue to be a bright spot, with the number of travelers who intend to take a summer vacation this year at 67 percent in MMGY’s most recent Portrait of American Travelers, up from 60 percent last year.

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