A family working with a travel advisor. (photo via South_agency / getty images)
Travel Weekly and sister brand Phocuswright have teamed up to release the 2022 Travel Industry Survey, revealing the latest trends among travel agencies and travel advisors across the U.S.
The research project was conducted through an online questionnaire sent out to Travel Weekly and TravelAge West subscribers in addition to members of various consortia and host agencies. The 1,356 participating travel advisors are either currently employed by a travel agency, are independent contractors for a travel agency or are travel agency owners or managers and responded between July 22 and August 15, 2022.
The travel advisor age breakdown was similar to last year, with four out of five being over the age of 45 and zero percent being under the age of 25. What’s more, the study found that 23 percent of agencies are five years old or less, which is more than double the 10 percent in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
“The reassuring bottom line is that, although young people still may not see becoming an advisor as an attractive first career, the profession does attract those with a bit of maturity and experience elsewhere,” wrote Arnie Weissmann, Executive Vice President and Editor in Chief, Travel Weekly. “Which, upon reflection, is not such a bad thing for the profession, or for clients.”
Research also shows that almost half of respondents have worked in travel for 10 years or less, up significantly from 21 percent in 2019. Meanwhile, 23 of traditional agencies were founded in the past five years, up from 10 percent in 2019. And experience matters when it comes to income, with 69 percent of respondents working two years or less reporting making less than $25,000 annually. Compare that to only 26 percent of advisors who’ve been in business more than 30 years.
Time devoted is another key factor with fewer than half of those working full time and relying on their business as a primary source of income indicating that they make fewer than 50,000 annually.
The study also uncovers a fascinating trend in travel advisors viewing themselves as independent even when working with a host agency or consortia. One-third of respondents identified themselves as hosted independent contractors (ICs), which is down 20 percentage points from 2021. On the other hand, 28 percent identified as fully independent advisors, compared with 17 percent just last year. Of the 28 percent, two-thirds reported being affiliated with a host agency and four in five reported being members of a consortium.
Most continue to work with a host agency to access preferred suppliers (79 percent) and the leading benefits cited are overrides and incentives (68 percent), advisor-dedicated supplier websites (53 percent) and education programs (49 percent).
Travel advisor on the phone. (photo via jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
The home-based segment of travel advisors is currently enjoying record sales, the study found, with gross bookings reaching $920 million in 2021, up from $346 million in pandemic-plagued 2020 and up from the previous high of $899 million in 2018.
When it comes to the question of why clients are booking, customer service (33 percent), personal relationships (31 percent) and expertise (30 percent) are the leading reasons. Only 3 percent indicated that their clients book because they offer the best price.
Facebook continues to be the most important social platform for today’s travel advisors but TikTok is coming on strong with usage more than doubling from 2021 to 2022. In general social media is still a go-to for sales and marketing, with 68 percent of respondents ranking it their number one platform over email, website marketing events and e-newsletters.
In terms of specialization, most travel advisors are mastering ocean cruises (60 percent), destinations (56 percent) and tours and packages (56 percent). However, river cruises (47 percent) and luxury travel (45 percent) aren’t far behind.
Additional study findings include travel advisor (38 percent) being the preferred describer to travel agent (19 percent) or travel consultant (18 percent), more than seven in 10 advisors being optimistic about the future of the trade with a positive outlook on the industry and another 71 percent ranking family travel as their top category.
Click here to view the complete 2022 Travel Industry Survey.
For the latest travel news, updates and deals, be sure to subscribe to the daily TravelPulse newsletter.