US travel agents: Airfare cost on the rise, demand high for vacation cruises in 2014
Monday 14, October 2013
In 2002, Delta Air Lines decided to impose a zero commission policy on travel agents sales. Other US carriers followed soon after. The death of the travel agent” seemed liked a plausible forecast back then.
Today, over a decade after the airlines decided to ruthlessly reduce then ultimately eliminate commissions paid to travel agents, the job and the profession is very much alive and thriving. Did you know that about one-third of all travel agents in the United States generated a gross travel sales of $18 billion in 2012? That fraction of US travel agents equals to the total membership of a Minnesota-based association of travel agents called Travel Leaders Group.
The voice of the travel agent is loud and clear, as proven today by the Travel Leaders Group when it released its findings on the average cost of airfare along with cruise booking trends from its recent 2013 Fall Travel Trends Survey. “While there is a definite upward trend in the average cost of airfare for select geographic destination, that has not had an adverse effect on overall bookings – in fact, 85% of the 946 Travel Leaders Group U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents polled indicate that overall travel bookings are the same or higher than last year at this time (compared to 80.9% in 2012). As for cruise booking trends, 84.4% of those polled indicate bookings are on par with or better than 2012 and, with respect to river cruising, there is an increased interest in Continental Europe, Russia and the Mississippi River.”
Travel Leaders Group’s survey revealed that 6.2% of its members saw an increase over last year in the number of the average cost per airline ticket for Hawaii bookings $1,000 or more, and an 11.3% increase among those saying airline tickets to Europe are averaging $1,300 or more.
“Some of that cost may be ‘perks’ that business and leisure travelers are willing to pay for – such as extra leg room. In addition, more than eight out of every 10 agents surveyed indicated that their bookings are equal to or higher than last year,” Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben said. “So, clearly American business and leisure travelers are not scaling back. Perhaps they have adjusted to the ‘new reality’ of airline pricing, because the demand for travel is robust.”
Liben added: “Also, value and price are distinctly different items, and our agents work with each client to determine what will ultimately offer them the most value for their travel dollar.
According to him, Travel Leaders Group members, in the realm of cruising trends, nearly 70% of agents who book river cruises are already booking vacations for 2014. “River cruising continues to be one of the hottest trends in the travel industry and, with Europe and Russia leading the way in terms of increased bookings, any increases in airfare costs are not deterring consumers.”
Average Cost of Airfare for Select Geographic Destinations:*
Domestic (Continental 48): When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients within the (U.S.) Continental 48?” 67.5% of Travel Leaders Group agents selected $300-499, while 17.9% indicated $500-599. (In 2012 the percentages were 73.6% and 12.6% respectively.)
Alaska: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Alaska?” 64.1% of agents stated $600-899 as compared to 59.3% last year.
Hawaii: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Hawaii?” 51.8% of those polled indicated $700-999 as compared to 56.3% last year. It should be noted that 28.8% selected “$1,000 or more” in this year’s survey.
Caribbean: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to the Caribbean?” 47.6% of Travel Leaders Group agents selected $500-699 while 19.5% indicated $700-799. (In 2012 the percentages were 52.4% and 15.4% respectively.)
Mexico: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Mexico?” 53.5% of agents polled indicated $400-599 as compared to 61.3% last year. An additional 21.3% indicated $600-699 in this year’s survey.
Europe: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Europe?” 42.4% indicated $1,300 dollars or more (compared to 31.1% in 2012), while 46.2% of agents indicated $1,000-1,299 as compared to 53.3% last year.
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