Robin Amster | November 26, 2015 12:00 PM ET
‘Work At Home’ Comes into Its Own
There was a time, not all that long ago, when people who “worked at home” were seen as amateurs. Their office: the kitchen table. Their goal: to keep busy.
That’s changed with a vengeance in virtually every field but certainly in travel. Today’s “home-based” travel agents are professional, accomplished business people responsible for billions of dollars’ worth of bookings a year from vacation packages to all-inclusive resort stays, cruises to FITs.
According to The Once and Future Agent: Phocuswright’s Travel Agency Distribution Landscape 2009 – 2013, the home-based agent population soared from 31,000 in 2006 to 40,000 in 2011. In 2010, home-based agents were responsible for close to $10 billion in travel sales, more than one third of all agency leisure sales.
“The way I look at it, it’s almost getting to a point where home-based agents don’t need to be a segment,” says Scott Koepf, senior vice president of sales at host agency Avoya Travel. “Travel retailers are travel retailers. Wherever they choose to do business is really irrelevant.
“In the old days, they were considered non-professional and a small entity; then they were considered a small section of the business, then, a segment that people started paying attention to,” Koepf says. “Today? They’re considered as large as other segments with full creditability.”
The growth of host agencies itself is an indication of the strength of the home-based segment. The number of hosts has increased along with the number of their members and the range of services and support they offer.
“Our side of the industry is gaining traction; it’s grown in respect,” says Andi McClure-Mysza, president of MTravel, the host division of Montrose Travel. “It used to be everyone joked in the seventies, eighties and nineties about kitchen-table agents. We’re beyond this now.
“You can see this in the relative success of many of the large host agencies like ours—if it wasn’t working, if it was a joke still, you wouldn’t see what’s happening,” McClure-Mysza says.
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