In television terms, today’s travel agent, once relegated to “Survivor” status, has become the industry’s fast-rising star – “The Bachelorette,” according to new research conducted by Phocuswright. The study points to the growing ranks of independent, entrepreneurial, service-focused independent contractors in whom busy travelers are placing more trust, due to the peace of mind, expertise, time and cost savings they deliver.
The 2018 U.S. Travel Agency Landscape study and upcoming report of the same name is Phocuswright’s third comprehensive look at the evolving travel agency segment, and follows two studies conducted in 2009 and 2013. The latest study, co-sponsored by Amadeus, queried more than 1,550 respondents who addressed questions about agency-supplier relationships, technology providers and consortia and affiliate partners.
Service – the secret ingredient
A key component of the business research work we do at Amadeus is to stay close to our customers by continually dialoging about their needs, requirements and critical success factors. Not surprisingly, the Phocuswright study validated a data point we already knew: that specialized service is the “key differentiator” that separates great travel counselors from the rest.
Like the bachelorette on TV, the most successful travel professionals understand the importance of “winning over” their customers by delivering the highest levels of quality service, expert knowledge, wise counsel and end-to-end support throughout the traveler’s journey.
Here are five additional takeaways from the study:
- Travel agents are holding their own. They are the largest travel segment, representing 30% of total sales. Corporate agents are growing slightly faster than leisure, and represent 52% of the total market. Leisure travel agencies represent 14% of the total travel market versus 18% for online travel agencies. Two-thirds of cruise sales and 68% of tours are sold by travel agents. As the largest sellers of airline tickets, travel agents account for 44% of segment sales.
- The future looks bright. Today’s travel agents are far from extinction. More than 60% reported increases in sales volume from 2016 to 2017, with 59% of agency owners in agreement. These agents are profitable, positive, and making technological advances. A growing shift toward the independent contractor model makes these agents a prized “catch” for suppliers and hosts/consortia. Charging service fees for the work they do is also growing in popularity.
- Independent contractors are the buzz. The number of travel agents as independent contractors now exceeds that of full-time employees. Of the travel agents interviewed in the study, 51% are remote/home-based; 44% are retail storefront or office-based and the remainder work for TMCs or other organizations. Hosts and consortia gravitate toward independent contractors for their customer service, expertise, personal client networks, entrepreneurial mindset, social media savvy and openness to new ways of working.
- Specialty travel fuels the growth. Specialization is how the independent contractor community continues to grow. Agencies at all levels are looking for independent contractors with their own networks or specialties to serve high-income clients (household income $75,000 -$100,000), who often purchase tours and packages, ocean cruises, specific destinations, river cruises, and luxury travel. And it goes without saying: The travel counselor who provides great service and customer care is the one whose business will grow the most.
- The right technology facilitates better journeys. Even though today’s independent contractors are strong mobile users who leverage the power of social media marketing, many reported that technology still has far to go in meeting their needs, including an easier, layered way to book travel components. At Amadeus, our goal is to help you work smarter and faster by providing a platform that makes it easy to support your customers with the highest levels of service and support.
Thrive with Amadeus
According to a recent Travel Weekly article, travel agents choose to work as independent contractors for a variety of reasons: It’s convenient, flexible, and allows frequent travel. And thanks to technology advances, agents are able to work from virtually anywhere.
At Amadeus, you’ll never see us on a “Survivor” re-run; we’re here to help you win! For more than 30 years, we’ve been helping travel professionals around the world innovate, grow and thrive. Amadeus supports your business with tools and platforms that support the shift toward independent contracting. Amadeus Selling Platform Connect, our browser-based booking and fulfillment platform, sets you free from technology constraints. And Amadeus All Fares Plus helps you generate sales faster by comparing and booking air deals directly from your point of sale.
To learn how you can power better journeys for your customers, visit Amadeus.com today.
How has the shift toward independent contractors affected your business?