Studying the travel industry reveals the latest travel agency and consultant trends

Travel Weekly and sister brand Phocuswright have teamed up to release their 2022 Travel Industry Survey, revealing the latest trends among travel agencies and travel advisors across the US.

The research project was conducted through an online questionnaire sent to Travel Weekly and TravelAge West subscribers as well as members of various consortia and host agencies. The 1,356 participating travel advisors are currently employed by a travel agency, independent contractors for a travel agency or owners or managers of travel agencies and responded between 22 July and 15 August 2022.

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The travel advisor age breakdown was similar to last year, with four in five over the age of 45 and zero percent under the age of 25. What’s more, the study found that 23 percent of agencies are five years old or younger, more than double the percentage of 10 percent in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

“The reassuring bottom line is that although young people still don’t see becoming a counselor as an attractive first career, the profession does attract those with a bit of maturity and experience elsewhere,” writes Arnie Weissmann, Executive Vice President and Editor-in-Chief. Weekly travel. “Which, on reflection, is not a bad thing for the profession or for clients.”

Research also shows that nearly half of respondents have worked in the travel industry for 10 years or less, up significantly from 21 percent in 2019. Meanwhile, 23 traditional agencies have been founded in the past five years, up from 10 percent in 2019. And experience matters when it comes to income—69 percent of respondents have been working for two years or less and make less than $25,000 annually. Compare that to only 26% of consultants who have been in business for more than 30 years.

Dedicated time is another major factor as less than half of the workers work full time and depend on their business as their primary source of income indicating that they earn less than 50,000 annually.

The study also reveals a remarkable trend in travel consultants who consider themselves independent even when working with a host agency or consortium. A third of respondents identified themselves as host independent contractors (ICs), which is a drop of 20 percentage points from 2021. On the other hand, 28 percent identify as fully independent consultants, compared to 17 percent just last year. Of the 28 percent, two-thirds reported affiliation with a host agency and four in five reported being members of a consortium.

Most continue to work with a host agency to gain access to preferred suppliers (79 percent) and the main benefits cited are extras and incentives (68 percent), supplier sites for consultants (53 percent), and educational programs (49 percent).


Travel agent on the phone
Travel advisor on the phone. (Photo by jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The study found that the home-based travel advisor segment is currently enjoying record sales, with total bookings reaching $920m in 2021, up from $346m in pandemic-hit 2020 and up from a previous high of $899m in 2018.

When it comes to the question of why customers book, customer service (33 percent), personal relationships (31 percent), and experience (30 percent) are the top reasons. Only 3 percent indicated that their customers book because they offer the best rates.

Facebook remains the most important social platform for travel advisors today, but TikTok is going strong with usage more than doubling from 2021 to 2022. Overall, social media remains a vehicle for sales and marketing, with 68 percent of respondents rating it their #1 email platform. and website marketing events and electronic newsletters.

In terms of specialization, most travel consultants are proficient in cruises (60 percent), destinations (56 percent), and tours and packages (56 percent). However, river cruises (47 percent) and luxury travel (45 percent) are not far behind.

Additional study findings include a travel advisor (38 per cent) as the preferred descriptor of a travel agent (19 per cent) or travel advisor (18 per cent), and more than seven in 10 advisors are optimistic about the future of commerce with a positive outlook on the industry. Another 71 percent rated family travel as the best category.

Click here to view the full 2022 Travel Industry Survey.


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