Travel Industry businessThe economic recession may be bad for business but a new report by ASTA shows that travel agents are making more money now than they were before the markets fell. The number of agencies that made a profit in 2011 (55%) has surpassed 2007 levels (53%), indicating continued growth in the travel industry, ASTA’s 2012 Agency Profile Study found.

The study found the number of agencies with sales of less than $1 million (39%) and sales of more than $10 million (9%) up, respectively, from 2002 numbers by 93 percent and 100 percent. Agencies in the $1 million to $10 million range, however, did not fare as well, with sales decreasing from 21 percent to 56 percent.

“This report provides an in-depth look at the health of the travel agency industry, as well as critical benchmarking data which will help all agency owners optimize their business operations,” said ASTA CEO Tony Gonchar.

Interestingly, the use of independent contractors by travel agencies is down – possibly the result of notice by the Internal Revenue Service and state regulatory bodies on the use of such employees. However, the number of full-time employees in agencies has seen a rise.

The study also found:

* When comparing international to domestic sales as part of an agency’s sales mix, the percentage share of international travel sales has increased over the last seven years, up from 40 percent in 2004 to 56 percent today. Beginning in 2010, agencies now expect international sales to outstrip domestic sales.

Travel Agents travel industry

* Between 2002 and 2012, the percentage share of air sales (24%) dropped 29 percent.  Car rental (4%) also saw a large decrease (18%) in percentage share during the same time period. In contrast, hotels (11%), cruises (26%) and tours (31%) all saw strong increases in percentage share of 32 percent, 18 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

* Half of business communications with clients is conducted by phone now (52%), while a third is carried out online (33%).  A fifth of business communications is still done face-to-face (19%). Compared to 2003, phone communications is down by 30 percent, while online communications has grown by 246 percent. The number of walk-ins/face-to-face appointments has barely changed.

* Retail locations with multiple employees (35%) still make up the largest percentage of agencies, although this figure is down slightly from 2011 (37%).

* Comparing 2003 with 2012, the percentage of home-based agencies grew by 409 percent.