Report showcases consumer views about travel agents

The travel agent community faces an uphill battle when it comes to public awareness of agents, according to a new ASTA report on 2017 travel trends.

The report, released May 2, found that 42 percent of people surveyed had no opinion at all about agents while only a combined 14 percent felt strongly, favorably or unfavorably about them.

On the other hand, 80 percent of people who have used an agent within the past five years had a favorable view of them.

These and other findings were based on extensive field research, including customized focus groups and surveys from earlier this year. A total of 1,500 Americans responded to the questions, including 1,200 millennials and Gen X’ers (ages 25 to 51) along with 300 baby boomers (ages 52 to 70).

Digging deeper, the report found that favorable impressions of agents along with satisfaction rates over their performance have increased within the past 10 years.

Among those who used an “agency, adviser or consultant” within the past 10 years, 78 percent had a favorable opinion while just 15 percent had an unfavorable one. That compares to 44 percent with a favorable view and 24 percent with an unfavorable opinion for those who used an agent more than 10 years ago.

For consumers who used an agent within the past 10 years, 82 percent were satisfied with the job the agent did while only 5 percent were dissatisfied. That outshines the 62 percent satisfied and 8 percent dissatisfied for those who used an agent 10-plus years ago.

According to the report, the agent’s role has changed: They are no longer simply bookers of travel; they are travel advisers who create custom experiences and provide exclusive perks.

And they are providing better service for clients than their industry was known for in the past.

Of those who used agents within the last 10 years, 22 percent had agents help choose a destination, 22 percent had them help organize a tour, 25 percent had them recommend activities and 17 percent had them suggest dining options.

That’s in contrast to those who used agents 10 plus years ago: In that finding, 12 percent of people had agents help select a destination, 8 percent had them help organize a tour, 15 percent had them suggest activities and just 5 percent had them recommend dining options.

In addition, only 39 percent of consumers who used an agent in the past five years had the agent select a flight versus 57 percent who worked with an agent 10-plus years ago.

While agents are now serving as advisers who craft travel experiences in general, the report found generational differences when it comes to seeking advice on destinations, tours and activities.

Millennials and Gen X’ers, at 22 percent and 21 percent respectively, were more likely to have their agent choose a destination than baby boomers, at 12 percent.

Twenty-three percent of millennials said they would likely use an agent to organize a tour while 13 percent of Gen X’ers and 13 percent of baby boomers said the same. Twenty-eight percent of millennials, 16 percent of Gen X’ers and 19 percent of baby boomers would have an agent recommend activities.

Not surprisingly, there’s also a generational trend away from having agents book flights. Thirty-nine percent of millennials used their agent for this compared to 48 percent of Gen X’ers and 55 percent of baby boomers.


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