Who and where are travel advisors?

Travel Industry Survey 2021


The types of agencies where respondents work, A breakdown of advisors who work from home

Among the many ways that the pandemic reshaped the national landscape is that more people work from home now, and that is true more than ever of travel advisors. This year, 79% of respondents said they work from home, growing from 61% in the 2019 survey. Of that number, 71% are independent home-based advisors (17% are fully independent, 54% are hosted independent) and 8% are home-based agency employees.

The rise of 'advisor'

In 2018, ASTA rebranded itself the American Society of Travel Advisors, switching from "agents" to "advisors," and launched a campaign to get the rest of the industry to embrace that term. It worked. More than half (51%) of respondents this year chose "travel advisor" as their preferred title, jumping from 11% in 2018 and 27% in 2019.

A surge in advocacy organization recognition

In a sign of how tirelessly industry organizations worked to help their constituents during the pandemic, there was a surge in the number of respondents who said ASTA and CLIA were "effective" or "very effective." For ASTA, the number jumped from 35% to 72% and for CLIA from 28% to 59%. The appreciation was especially high among the largest agencies.

The USTOA and U.S. Travel also gained appreciation, with 26% and 24%, respectively, citing their effectiveness, up from 10% and 9% in the 2019 survey. For those organizations, and ones that ranked lower, such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association, respondents seem to be unaware of them rather than finding them ineffective.

Top reasons travel advisors use host agencies
What agencies want from preferred suppliers

Reliance on preferred suppliers dropped significantly, going from 84% in the 2019 survey to 71% this year, perhaps because of consumers' interest in less traditional products, such as RV rentals, which have not typically been in preferred supplier portfolios. But access to preferred suppliers nonetheless remained the top reason home-based respondents use host agencies, with 88% citing it as a reason to use a host, though only 17% of the top-earning home-based agents gave it the same importance. For those agencies, accounting and marketing services and "to book travel" were more important factors.

Interestingly, while access to lead generation is cited by only 20% as a reason to use a host, it grew as a reason that travel agencies want to use preferred suppliers: from 20% in 2019 to 26% in 2021. 

Smaller and home-based agencies rank educational programs much higher than large, traditional agencies, which are more likely to have their own training programs, while high-grossing agencies cite lead generation and overrides as the most important preferred supplier services.