Last updated: 07:36 PM ET, Thu February 27 2014

ASTA Unveils New Survey Showing Value of Using Travel Agents

Travel Agent American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) James Shillinglaw February 27, 2014

ASTA Unveils New Survey Showing Value of Using Travel Agents

Travelers who book through a travel agent are getting younger, enjoy a better trip experience for both leisure and business travel, and actually lead happier lives overall. That’s the message from a new survey commissioned by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines.

The comprehensive study, conducted by MMGY Global, which authors the annual “Portrait of the American Traveler” survey, examined the value of the travel agency channel and whether working with agents truly enhances the travel experience.

Steve Cohen, vice president-Insights for MMGY Global, said his group’s task was to define and measure the value of using a travel agents, as well as the traveler satisfaction level gained by use of travel agents, the relationship between travel and happiness, and the relationship between travel/happiness and travel agent usage.

Indeed, the study found that those travelers who use travel agents are happier and more satisfied in general their lives (83 percent for those who do use an agent versus 77 percent for those who don’t).

The study also found that 59 percent of millennials, 53 percent of Gen Xers, and 58 of boomer leisure travelers who had used travel agents said the vacations planned through travel agents were better than those organized without their assistance. Those same travelers that use an agent actually travel more (4.7 trips on average) than consumers that don’t use a travel agent (3.6 trips on average).

When asked why they use a travel agent, leisure travelers who do use an agent said the two major factors were convenience (76 percent) and knowledge (75 percent). Ironically, for those leisure travelers who did not use a travel agent, one of the main reasons was they never thought to do so (57 percent). Those who didn’t use a travel agent also said they like to do their own research (81 percent), they liked organizing trips (79 percent) and felt they plan trips better themselves (72 percent).

Of those leisure travelers who used travel agents, 55 percent said those trips were better organized and they found agents most useful in the selection of hotels and resorts 62 percent) tours and packages (62 percent), flights (51 percent) and destinations (50 percent).

On the business side, those travelers who used travel agents took more trips last year (4.8 versus 4.1 trips) and they also turned to agents to book flights (79 percent), hotels (70 percent) and rental cars (58 percent). Those business travelers who used agents also reported they had a better travel experience than those who did not (50 percent versus 8 percent)

For those business  travelers who did not use an agent, 42 percent said they never thought about doing so, 64 percent said liked organizing their own trips, 60 percent said they liked doing their own research, 53 percent said they though online travel agencies were more convenient, 53 percent said they though the best deals were online, and 38 percent their company policy did not permit the use of a travel agent.

In even more good news for the travel agency trade overall, the study found that use of traditional travel agents appears to be growing. According to the survey, 13 percent of U.S. travelers used a traditional travel agent in the past year, which is up from 11 percent a few years ago. Even better, of those leisure travelers who did not use travel agents in the past 12 months, 41 percent said they were open to using one in the future.

The survey results were based on responses from 8,338 travelers who had been on at least one trip requiring overnight accommodations during the past 12 months. Of those, 1,114 had used a travel agent for a leisure trip and 512 had used an agent during a business trip. All respondents had an annual household income of more than $50,000.

ASTA members will be given access to the summary findings of the survey during a member-only webinar on April 9, as well as a list of actionable items to help them market their businesses to consumers. The 270-page report can be purchased at starting on March 13.

James Shillinglaw