Travel Agents Set to Bounce Back in 2012

Travel agents received a nice Christmas present when the Miami Herald spoke of their successes. The Herald cited a study by Forrester Research that found the number of leisure travelers who enjoyed using the Internet to book travel fell from 53 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2010, as well as a survey by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) that showed 44 percent of agents said they had more clients in 2010 than in 2009.

“[Travelers] don’t have hours to spend on research to compare multiple flights, multiple cruises, multiple packages,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Forrester Research, told the Miami Herald. “It’s not unlike doing your taxes. Depending who you are, what your priorities are, there are some people who will choose to do it themselves or to use a professional.”

In addition to the convenience factor, travel agents are also uniquely positioned to deal with disasters affecting their clients, an ability that has garnered increasing attention as disasters and political unrest came to dominate the headlines in 2011.

"I think with everything we've seen in recent years from volcanoes and snow storms to civil unrest in certain countries, customers are more in tune for the need for travel insurance," Isaac Cymrot, director of sales and industry relations at Travel Insured, told Travel Agent during our exclusive coverage of Luxury Travel Expo 2011. "And that only mean higher sales and greater revenue for travel agents."

2011 also garnered increased publicity for travel agents after President Obama made comments implying that the Internet had replaced travel agents, sparking a flurry of counterarguments by industry groups like ASTA that underscored just how important the travel agent industry is.

“Travel agents work as personal advisors to provide their clients with the best travel experience before during and after their trip,” ASTA CEO Tony Gonchar wrote in a letter to the President. “Thanks to their in-depth knowledge, experience and industry connections, travel agents are able not only to save their clients money, but their most valuable possession—their time.”

Looking ahead, organizations from around the industry are forecasting positive trends for 2012. Travel Leadersannual Travel Trends Survey shows that over 91 percent of Travel Leaders members expect clients to spend the same or more on travel in 2012 as compared to 2011. The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) in its annual member survey revealed that 75 percent of its members are confident of sales growth in 2012. Finally, in the 2012 Travel-Ticker Traveler Intentions survey of consumers 44 percent of respondents planned to travel more in 2012 than 2011.

Read the Miami Herald’s full article here.

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