Canada’s travel trade is ageing.
Home-based agents are very experienced.
Sun and beach vacations are what agents sell the most.
These are just a few key findings revealed in The Travel Agent Next Door's (TTAND) third-annual National Travel Agent Survey, an in-depth study that surveyed nearly 700 home-based, call centre, office and store front agents nationwide last January.
The study, which was administrated by a third-party consulting firm, Rob Glennie & Associates, was commissioned to give TTAND, suppliers, tourist boards and the industry at large, a better understanding of Canada’s travel trade, from who they are to what they’re selling to how they do business.
“Whatever we do within the industry is what’s best for the industry and for the customers that may be our business partners today,” TTAND Founder Flemming Friisdahl told PAX in an interview last week.
An ageing population
Friisdahl invited PAX to TTAND's downtown Toronto headquarters last Wednesday to review the survey’s results, which paints a picture of an ageing demographic of travel agents with fewer young people joining the business.
Of the nearly 700 agents who completed the survey, about 64 per cent were over the age of 50. Of all participates, 85 per cent were over the age of 40 and just three per cent were between the ages of 25 and 29.
“The industry is an ageing population, which is something that’s not new. But [the survey] validates that,” Friisdahl told PAX, calling it a “shame” fewer young people are not pursuing careers in travel.
“I think potential new travel agents get caught up with the idea that there isn’t a lot of money to be made, which of course is not true,” Friisdahl said. “You’re not going to be a billionaire, but you can still make a very good income.”
The study contains data representing a full spectrum of travel advisors – from chains to consortiums to host agencies to call centers to independents – from every Canadian province (minus the territories), with 52 per cent of respondents living in Ontario.
TTAND promoted the survey across a variety of mediums, including its own platforms, ads in travel trade outlets, and email blasts. It also received help from the Association Of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA).
There was an incentive for completing the survey: agents that did so were automatically entered into a draw for one of six $150 gift cards.
Invaluable industry insight
Unlike previous years, this year’s survey was expanded to include non-hosted agents on commission and/or salary, providing valuable insight into the non-home-based retail sector.
One the study’s key findings was that 43 per cent of non-home based agents said that they would consider going home-based in the future. These agents were either commissioned agents or agents on a salary plus commission basis.
When asked what was holding them back, 41 per cent said it was due to their lack of clientele.
Concerns about income, working in isolation (not in an office), fees and fear were other factors respondents noted as barriers to going home-based.
It’s that kind of data that Friisdahl is paying close attention to for it reveals how his company can evolve and introduce new programs.
“It’s about how we can keep catering our home-based agent program to make it the best for an agent that’s working from home,” Friisdahl said. “If fear is preventing people from going home-based, then what programs can we create that will help people overcome their fear?”
Why agents go home-based
The survey offers an intimate portrait of today’s home-based agent – about half of survey respondents who fell within that category claimed to have never worked in a storefront.
On the topic of income, 79 per cent of home-based agents said they were earning more money for working the same hours as before they became home-based, with 44.9 per cent earning 31 per cent to 50 per cent more income and 19.6 per cent earning more than 50 per cent more.
The number one deciding factor that made people go home-based was the ability to work from home and skip the commute, the survey reveals.
Agents who went from a bricks-and-mortar or a storefront to home-based said they were happier, and more than 90 per cent claiming to have had a better work/life balance as a result.
The career experience of a home-based agent also stands out in the research.
Approximately 56 per cent of home-based participants reported having ten years or more experience working in travel, which Friisdahl calls “a testament to the value of home-based agents and what they do to the travel industry.”
How do travel agents learn about going home-based? 47.1 per cent said they learned through other agents, the survey says.
What are agents selling the most?
Out of all the agents surveyed, 14.5 per cent said they sell sun and beach, which represents the number one product sold. Air only and flights ranked second at 9.7 per cent, followed by ocean cruises at 8.9 per cent.
The product agents sold the least was "wellness," with only 2.4 per cent of participants reporting sales in that category.
The survey breaks down the data further, organizing it by the type of agent and what they sold.
For example: agents who sold the more high-priced products, such as ocean and river cruises, were primarily those who work in a store front and on commission.
“This information will guide us in what we do and continue to develop our understanding of the Canadian market,” Friisdahl told PAX, noting the survey will assist TTAND in its education and training.
TTAND will continue to analyze their survey results, notably the comments participants submitted. The company plans to share their findings in marketing and communications over the next few months.
For more info on TTAND, click here.
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