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