Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Things are looking good for home-based travel advisors this year.

Host Agency Reviews (HAR) recently published its annual Travel Agent Income Report, and the numbers are looking good.

The 900-plus agents who took the survey reported an average income of $44,312, a 10% increase from last year. Agents who work full time reported even higher incomes, averaging $61,427. And 84% said their annual sales increased from last year. Ten percent of respondents reported incomes over $100,000.

To compile its data, HAR only takes into account agents who have been in business for three or more years, because it takes time to both build a book of business and get commission payments once clients have traveled.

Unsurprisingly, advisors who have been in business longer had higher average incomes. For example, agents with six to eight years of experience reported average incomes of $46,115, and those with 15-plus years of experience reported incomes of $66,779.

There are a number of interesting findings in the report, including that more agents are selling travel full time (61% this year, compared with 51% last year and 47% in 2017).

But one of the things I found most interesting was HAR's findings on where an advisor's average income actually comes from.

HAR's Hosted Travel Agent Fee Report breaks the numbers down more specifically, but the income report proved illuminating on this point.

According to the income report, 33% of agents reported charging service fees, which yielded an average income of $5,863; 14% of agents reported charging consultation fees, which brought in $2,919 on average; and 1% of agents reported charging "other fees," things like coaching, speaking or bonus commissions, which boosted the bottom line by an average of $5,582. 

"The percentage of income derived from each revenue source was similar to previous years, with commissions comprising the lion's share of overall income," HAR wrote.

Indeed, the average income from commissions was $41,417, according to the report.

I've written a number of times about the importance of charging service fees.

It's an important income area that many still shy away from, especially, I've found, advisors that have been in business a long time and are wary of introducing a fee. But the benefits are numerous: It's an additional source of revenue, a form of future-proofing a business dependent on supplier commissions that might not always be there and, perhaps most importantly, a designator of a true professional.

Alex Sharpe, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network, recently told me that more and more of Signature's agencies are charging fees. Even those that were hesitant are reaping the rewards, because it showcases the value of a travel advisor.

As Sharpe said, if a lawyer offered to perform legal services for you for free, you wouldn't think they were a very good lawyer, would you?

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