Travel agents accounted for 69 percent of tour operator sales in 2008 and that more than a third of tour operators expect their distribution through travel agents to increase in the future, according to a the U.S. Packaged Travel Landscape 2006-2010, a study commissioned by ASTA.
"The study provides groundbreaking insight into the size and scope of the U.S. tour industry, a major source of commissions for travel agents. Ultimately, it will help travel agents understand the demographics and dimension of the tour industry and help tour operators drive smarter marketing decisions and strategies," said ASTA president and Chair Chris Russo.
Conducted by PhoCusWright, a leading travel industry research firm, the study examines the intricate relationship between tour operators and travel agents, including industry growth. The study also examines segment strength and looks at threats to the tour operator industry and strategic responses tour operators and travel agents can implement in response. Distribution patterns, including the role of consumer direct versus travel agents, were also studied.
"ASTA saw a void in the industry when it came to understanding this very lucrative market segment and sought to identify strategies that both tour operators and travel agents could use to mutually maximize their revenue," said Russo. "This is really the definitive study of the tour operator market and we are pleased to be able to offer this to our members. Be it escorted tours, packaged tours, FITs or group tours, it's in here. We wanted this study to be the starting point for a better, mutual understanding of the tour operator and travel agency industries."
Among the study's key findings are:
* Approximately 700 companies accounted for $12.3 billion in gross travel sales in 2008.
* Tour operator sales will decline in 2009, but expectation for modest growth in 2010 is strong.
* Package operators represent 68 percent of the market, escorted tour operators 24 percent and group specialists 8 percent.
* Travel agents tend to work with larger tour operators who sell packages, escorted programs and FITs.
* Clients coming via travel agents tend to be between the ages of 21 and 59. Clients coming through "consumer direct" tend to be 60+ years old or under 21.
* 58 percent of respondents said travel agents are important to their business.
This study was funded through the ASTA Foundation, a charitable foundation that promotes education and research to benefit the travel industry. The study was based on a sample of ASTA tour operator members, USTOA and NTA members and was augmented by U.S. Census Bureau data.
Members of ASTA's Tour Operator Program will receive a webinar presented by PhoCusWright as part of their membership; Travel Agent members will receive a free executive summary, but can also purchase the entire report for $499. The cost for non-members is $699.