Travel agents save consumers four hours in travel planning and an average $452 per trip, according to new research by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). Perhaps most importantly, consumers said that travel agents help them avoid costly mistakes.
“This study dispels the myth that booking direct with suppliers or spending hours online yourself gets you a better deal, or gives you a happier travel experience”, said ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby.
The independent study, “Best of Both Worlds: Quantifying How Travel Agents Save Consumers Time and Money,” was funded by Carnival Corporation and conducted by market research firm TNS Global.
“We couldn’t hold back the good news, and that is that travel agent usage is at its highest level since we began commissioning independent consumer research three years ago”, Mr Kerby said.
According to the study, in the past 12 months, nearly half of consumers polled (47 percent) booked travel through supplier websites, followed by 25 percent on online travel agency websites, and 23 percent through travel agents. That 23 percent was the highest share in the past three years.
“At this point, consumers have tried it all. They’ve booked online, they’ve gone direct, and they’ve used a travel agent… Consumers told TNS Global that if you want a better travel experience, use an agent“, ASTA’s president added.
When looking back on their past travel experiences, almost two-thirds (63 percent) said using an agent makes their overall trip experience better; 69 percent reported that agents save them time in planning and booking; 66 percent said agents help them avoid costly mistakes, and 64 percent say agents find the better deals.
In the study, travel agents also scored well for selling all-inclusive resorts and travel insurance, nearly tying with online suppliers.
The top reason cited by consumers who have not used an agent in the past 12 months of why they would consider it is if the agent can save them money (47 percent), followed closely by if the agent can find better deals than online websites and if the travel agent can help the consumer avoid mistakes.
Detailed findings of the final version of the survey will be available on by ASTA by May 30.
ASTA released the results in honor of National Travel and Tourism Week May 1-7, with a special focus on Travel Agent Appreciation Day on Wednesday, May 4. “We want to say ‘thank you’ to our members all over the globe for all you do every day to advise and protect your customers,” Kerby said.
ASTA members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel.