Agent Issues 2012 Travel Weekly Travel Industry Survey October 29, 2012 Share 1 -- Editor in Chief's Message:In the decades that Travel Weekly has been tracking changes in how travel is distributed in its Travel Industry Survey, the profile of the average travel agent and agency has changed so dramatically that there's a question about whether there truly is a definable "average" travel agent. The business models and habits of agents working in a walk-in retail location may differ radically from those of home-based agents, call-center driven mega-agencies, cruise-only agencies, online agencies and corporate agencies. (Click here or on the image to continue reading the special report.) Or, they may overlap significantly. We typically ask the same questions year after year in order to accurately track movement, dropping questions that become irrelevant or exploring new fields that reflect the emergence of trends. But seldom is change clearly observable from one survey to the next. In fact, the movement on most questions is within the margin of error of the study. Trends become clear only after years of asking the same question. There are exceptions, however, often driven by sudden changes in circumstances beyond agencies' control. The reduction in the number of ARC-appointed agencies from 1995 to 2002 -- the sum tumbled steadily from about 36,000 to roughly 18,000 in seven years -- could be directly attributed to the combination of loss of base airline commission, the emergence of online travel agencies and 9/11. Another sea change appears to be occurring in the opening years of this decade, though its rapid acceleration is not as easily pinpointed to identifiable causes. In just two years, the number of agents who identify themselves as "home-based" has climbed almost 50%, from 31% in the 2010 Travel Industry Survey to 45% in this year's survey. That's remarkable. To dig a little deeper into that trend, and others ... keep reading. Arnie Weissmann Editor in Chief Travel Weekly MethodologyThe 2012 Travel Industry Survey was based on the responses of 1,417 travel agents to an online survey conducted in July and August 2012. Fifty-five percent of respondents participating in the research work in traditional retail travel agencies, while the remaining 45% are home-based. The terms "retail" and "traditional" are used interchangeably in this report when referring to agencies based in brick-and-mortar offices as opposed to home-based offices. This sample size offers statistical reliability in the range of 3% to 4%. ASTA and Nacta researchThe ASTA surveys were conducted among members of the ASTA Research Family, a representative sample of ASTA members that annually take a series of benchmarking surveys on agency operations. The data on technology and Web usage is based on online responses from 366 travel agents collected in April and May 2012, with an error rate of plus or minus 4.7%. The GDS survey data were collected online in May and June 2012 from 365 respondents, with an error rate of plus or minus 4.7%. For the National Association of Career Travel Agents (Nacta) survey, ASTA collected data online in May and June 2012 from 468 of Nacta's 1,657 members. ASTA states that this reply level indicates an error rate of plus or minus 3.8%.