The Hosted Travel Agent Longitudinal Report, 2020

January 11, 2021

Host Agency Reviews' (HAR) has been collecting data for our travel agent reports since 2016. For years, these surveys have asked an array of questions with the aim of providing a data-driven industry snapshot of a travel agent channel that has always been somewhat elusive: the hosted travel agent.

Consistently, these reports have offered a clear visual of this segment; hosted travel agent demographics, income, work habits, fee structures, industry engagement, and more.

The host industry is far and away the leading path to bring new talent to the travel agent distribution channel.

Over time, we have expanded the scope of our reports to look at even more travel agent segments (new agents, agents with their own accreditation, travel agent employees and more). While you can see all our prior travel agent reports here, HAR decided to compare data from our past reports to offer hosted travel agent trends over time.

We’ll publish longitudinal reports every five years (years ending in 0 or 5). This year we got a late start this time around due to planning our first-ever Host Week! 😍

This report will tell us what many embedded in the host industry had known all along: Hosted agents are serious about their career, investing time and resources into developing their businesses. Not only will this report highlight the viability of a career as a hosted agent, it also illustrates that the host industry is far and away the leading path to bring new talent to the travel agent distribution channel.

Over time, hosted agents have earned more income, invested more time, and engaged more actively with the travel industry. Below we take a side-by-side look at hosted agent data from previous years. It's important to note that, while we're comparing reports years to make it easier to cross-reference, the surveys asked about travel agent income the year prior.

Let’s take a look.


Hosted Travel Agent Income over Time

Between 2016 and 2019, hosted agent income increased 38% for FT hosted agents. This is a staggering increase and an indication of the growing importance and participation of the hosted agents to the travel industry at large.

Below is a graph of average income among full-time hosted agents with 3+ years of experience:

YOY FT Hosted Agent Income

When tallying income, we focus on agents who have 3+ years experience since it takes a while for travel agents to generate consistent income (see the new agent reports in our survey archive).

For the remainder of the report, we’re comparing the data of all hosted agents, regardless of experience level.


Work Habits of Hosted Agents over Time

Since this data also includes new advisors, these trends often depart from those of more experienced hosted agents.

If you’re interested in seeing how overall trends compare across different specific hosted agent segments, you can view our full archive of hosted travel agent income reports.


IS SELLING TRAVEL PRIMARY INCOME AMONG HOSTED travel agents?

Among hosted travel agents, 59% reported that selling travel was their primary source of income in 2019.

Here’s how this has changed YOY:

Longitudinal Hosted Agent Primary Income

As the advisor’s experience increases, they’re more likely to report that selling travel was their primary source of income. This is another indicator of the viability of a career as a hosted agent.

In 2019, only 44% of new agents (those with 0-2 years experience) reported travel as their primary income compared to 74% of experienced agents (3+ years).

If the percentage of agents for whom travel is their primary income looks low, we can explain by parsing out the data by experience. In 2019, only 44% of new agents (those with 0-2 years experience) reported travel as their primary income compared to 74% of experienced agents (3+ years).

This trend is also reflected in a higher proportion of hosted agents working full time . . .


FT/PT HOURS WORKED:

57% of hosted agents reported working full time (30+ hours) in 2019. This a higher response rate than the prior year when only 51% reported working full time.

Here’s a look at the longitudinal trend:

Longitudinal FT/PT Hosted Agent Trends

Most hosted advisors who worked full-time hours reported that travel was their primary source of income (and vice versa).

Just as in the primary income section above, this seemingly low rate of full-time agents can be explained by an agents experience level. In 2019, only 47% of new agents (0-2 years) were full time, whereas 74% of experienced agents (3+ years) were full agents.

You like drilling down to specific hosted agent segments? See our travel agent income report archive!


ICs or Employees?

19% of hosted agents reported having ICs and/or employees in 2019 (ICs, 14%; employees, 3%; Both, 2%). Combined, this was slightly lower than the prior year (21%).

Below the graph indicates the number of hosted agents taking on ICs and/or employees is increasing:

Host Agent Longitudinal IC/Employee trends

While a slightly smaller percentage of agents took on ICs and/or employees in 2019 compared to 2018, the overall trend indicates a greater likelihood for hosted agents to take steps in scaling their business over time.


HOME BASED or STOREFRONT?

96% of hosted agents who took our survey were home based in 2019. This is comparable to the prior year, when 95% of hosted agents were home based. However, as this is pre-COVID data, we expect the percentage of storefront agencies will drop even more going forward.

This trend among hosted agents has remained consistent with only slight shifts over time:

Longitudinal HB/SF trends for Hosted Agents


TOP PRODUCTS OVER TIME

The top three products over time—ocean cruises, all inclusive, and tours and packages—had remained relatively steady. However, FITs bumped out tours and packages in 2019. (It’s important to note that FITs was newly-added as an option in our survey in 2019, after receiving numerous write-ins prior years.)

Below you can see the most popular products sold among hosted travel agents over time:

Longitudinal Product Trends for Hosted Agents

While cruises were the top-selling product each year, products hosted agents sold diversified in 2019.

While cruises were the top-selling product each year, products hosted agents sold diversified in 2019, with the top three products comprising a smaller percentage of all products sold. As a segment, hosted agents have diversified their portfolio of travel products, possibly to meet travelers' (pre-pandemic) growing desire for more "local" and "authentic" vacation experiences1.


Demographics of Hosted Agents over Time:

Over time we’ve been able to collect data on hosted travel agent demographics. Here we compile the information to see how the demographic landscape of hosted agents has changed over time.

Like the previous section, we compiled data from all hosted agents, regardless of experience level.


RACIAL/ETHNIC LANDSCAPE OF HOSTED AGENTS OVER TIME

The ethnic and racial composition of the travel agent industry has primarily remained consistent over the past few years.

Below the graph indicates race, year over year for the top 5 reporting racial/ethic groups:

Longitudinal Racial/Ethnic Trends among Hosted Agents

Since 2016, there has been a slight increase in the percentage of white hosted agents. This slight increase is inverse to the decline in Black/African American hosted agents in that same time period.

In 2020 HAR hosted a 3-part conversation on how to foster a culture of anti-racism in the travel industry with our Listen, Learn, Act webinar series. You can learn more about HAR’s anti-racism initiatives and commitments here.

Racial/ethnic representation differed among different travel agent channels in 2019. For those interested in digging deeper, HAR has more detailed information on travel agent demographic trends beyond the hosted agent.


GENDER OF HOSTED AGENTS OVER TIME

The gender distribution of hosted agents has remained steady since 2016. Below you can view the gender breakdown, year over year:

Longitudinal Hosted Agent Gender Trends

The hosted agent channel continue to remain a women-dominated segment of the travel industry across the years2


DISTRIBUTION OF NEW/ ESTABLISHED HOSTED AGENTS OVER TIME

In 2019, 35% of hosted agents who completed our survey were new-to-industry (0-2 years experience). This number is significantly lower than the prior year's report, when 40% of hosted respondents were new-to-industry.

However, it’s important to note that HAR increased its outreach for survey partnership in 2019. That year, we partnered with travel organizations beyond host agencies, such as ASTA, CCRA, The Travel Institute and more.

Not only did this significantly increase the number of agents who took our survey, it also diversified the types of travel agents who took it as well. These partnerships (in part) account for the greater percentage of experienced agents.

Due to this, the percentage of new hosted agents has dwindled year over year. Below you can see how it’s shifted over time:

Longitudinal New/Exp. Hosted Agent Trends

The percentage of experienced agents has significantly increased over time. One explanation is that new hosted agents established their careers over time and gained experience. An additional explanation is that it can also be attributed (in part) our expanded survey partnership, which diversified the types of agents who take our surveys.

This is also indicative of host agencies investment in new hosted agents, playing a critical role helping this segment seed and establish successful careers.


MEDIAN EXPERIENCE OF HOSTED AGENTS OVER TIME

We use median (the most common answer) as the most accurate way to look at years of experience among hosted agents.3 The median years of experience among hosted agents has incrementally increased since 2017.

Here’s a look and how it’s shifted:

Longitudinal Experience Trends among Hosted Agents
To read about experience levels of different independent agents, go to our income survey archive.


MEDIAN AGE OF HOSTED AGENTS OVER TIME

In 2019, the median age of hosted agents was 54. This is three years more than the prior year, when the median age was 51.

The median age of hosted travel agents has steadily increased from 49 to 54 since we started collecting data. Below you can see the changes in median age year over year:

Longitudinal Age Trends among Hosted Agents


Industry Engagement of Hosted Agents over Time

In our surveys, we asked about agents' membership with travel organizations and attainment of travel-specific certifications. We use the data from these questions to gauge industry engagement.

Here's how hosted agents' have responded to these questions over time.


CERTIFICATION

66% of hosted agents had at least one travel-specific certification in 2019. When it comes to travel-specific certifications, here’s how this tendency has changed over time:

Longitudinal Certification Trends Among Hosted Agents

The graph shows that a great proportion of hosted agents have received certifications over time. This indicates that hosted agents have become more invested in their industry engagement.


ASSOCIATION Membership

While a bit more erratic, the same trend is reflected in engagement with travel association membership.

Association membership increased significantly from last year. In 2018 only 32% of travel agents reported belonging to a travel organization. In 2019, the response rate jumped to 71%. 🤯

Here’s how association membership has looked over time:

Longitudinal Association Trends Among Hosted Agents

This increase may be, in part, due to ASTA and CCRA's partnership with our survey and pushing it out to their networks. However, it's also indicative of travel organizations embracing the growing hosted travel agent channel. It's also indicative of travel organizations embracing the growing hosted travel agent channel.


Career Satisfaction over Time

One way we gauge career satisfaction is to ask agents if they feel fairly compensated. This indicates whether or not they perceive their work is valued.

In general, travel agent attitudes toward fair compensation have soured in 2019 compared to previous years. Only 64% of hosted agents felt their income was fair compared to 74% the prior year—a decent drop. However, it’s important to note that we polled our agents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the survey profiled 2019 income, they likely replied to the survey with their current attitudes toward their profession.

Here’s how income satisfaction broke down over the years:

Longitudinal Fair Compensation Trends Among Hosted Agents

Another way we measure agent career satisfaction is by asking agents if they’d become an agent again if they could choose. This offers a big-picture look at career satisfaction.

The overwhelming majority of hosted agents reported they would choose the profession again, year after year.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Longitudinal TA Again Trends Among Hosted Agents


Key Takeaways

In the wake of this industry growth, the overwhelming majority of hosted agents would choose their career again.

Over time, hosted agents:

  1. Earned a higher average income
  2. Were more likely to sell travel as a primary source of income
  3. Were more likely to work full time
  4. Diversified products sold
  5. Have become a more experienced segment

Overall, the data indicates that starting and maintaining a travel agent career as a hosted agent is a viable career choice, with the opportunity to thrive within the industry. The host industry’s support has been pivotal to travel agent growth over time. They’ve established themselves as critical players in onboarding new agents and growing the travel agent industry at large.

Just as the hosted agent career has evolved over time so, too, have host agencies. The host industry that supports this growing travel agent channel has expanded to meet their ICs’ growing need for support by creating exclusive education programming and travel agent tools, and developing larger networks.

HAR’s always been a huge fan and advocate of hosted agents and the host industry that supports them (no surprises there!). This report helps quantify the growth of the host industry, highlighting its innovation, tenacity, and resilience. We’re confident that, despite a turbulent 2020, this data indicates that hosted agents are essential to future industry growth and provide a milestone for its continued recovery.



Footnotes

  1. Source: Travel Weekly
  2. Non-binary gender identities received <.5% response in each of our survey reports.
  3. Averages are more likely to be skewed by respondents with significant experience, whereas median offers how many years experience most respondents reported
About the Author
Mary Stein - Host Agency Reviews

Mary Stein

Mary Stein has been working as a writer and editor for Host Agency Reviews since 2016. She loves supporting travel advisors on their entrepreneurial journey and is inspired by their passion, tenacity, and creativity. Mary is also a mom, dog lover, fiction writer, hiker, and a Great British Bake Off superfan.