Hosted Travel Agent Fee Report, 2018 [+Free Infographic]
This year was a banner year for the fee survey: Over 800 travel agents responded to the survey, a response rate so robust that we were able to get even more comprehensive data regarding 2018 travel agent fee trends.
One of the most notable things from this year’s survey? We had a significantly higher number of independent agents and storefront agencies1 take the survey this year.
In fact, we had so many responses from independent agents this year, that we’ve dedicated an entire article to the results of that segment. (Curious to compare the results to the data from independent agents? Go here.)
We created a few ways for you to digest all this delicious data, so take your choice: by video, infographic, or by good old fashioned reading.
First, a sneak preview of results for hosted agents in our infographic:
The Hosted Agent Demographic
Who are these mysterious travel agents? Well here’s some big-picture demographic data on hosted agents:
- 83% identified as female
- 17% male
- <1% other
- Cultural/ Racial Identity:
- 78% White/ Caucasian (compared to 79% across all respondents)
- 13% Black/ African American (same across all respondents)
- 3% Hispanic/ Latino/a (same across all respondents)
- 2% Asian (compared to 3% across all respondents)
- Median Age: 52 years (compared to 53 years across all respondents)
- Median Years Experience: 4 years (compared to 5 years across all respondents)
In terms of gender and racial demographics, the segment of hosted agents did not vary significantly compared to independent agents.
In 2018, 46% of women agents who were hosted reported charging a fee, whereas 54% of hosted men charged a fee—an 8% gap.
However, the results did register differences in fee behaviors according to gender among hosted agents. In 2018, 46% of women agents who were hosted reported charging a fee whereas 54% of hosted men charged a fee—an 8% gap. Surprisingly, we discovered this trend is reversed among independent agents, where women were 13% more likely to charge a fee than men (see detailed results here).
When it came to age and years of experience, there was a significant disparity between hosted and independent agents. For hosted agents, the median level of experience (4 years) was 9.5 years fewer than the median among independent agents.
Hosted travel professionals are also younger than their independent counterparts. The median age among hosted agents was 6 years younger than the median age of independent agents. It’s worth noting that most accreditation options require an agent to have some industry experience before applying. This could help explain why independent agents are older and have more experience.
Business Models of Hosted Agents
This year’s survey attracted a greater variety of travel agent business models. Overall, 86% of the respondents were hosted,10% independent (not hosted), and 4% were franchisees.
I guess we’ll keep our name Host Agency Reviews instead of changing it to Independent Agency Reviews. ;)
While leisure/ corporate focus was the same between hosted and independent agents, their business models were a point of divergence between the two segments when considering home based versus storefront:
- 98% leisure agents, 2% corporate (same as the results for agents overall)
- 95% home based, 5% storefront (compared to 92% home based and 8% storefront overall)
Far fewer hosted agents had storefront agencies (5%) compared to independent agents, who reported owning storefront agencies at a 30% rate.
Hosted Agent Experience vs. Likelihood to Charge Fees
Hosted agents overall reported having significantly less experience than independent agents. In both segments, travel agents with less experience were less likely to charge fees, and more likely to charge according to experience level.
Only ⅓ of travel agents with less than a year experience reported charging a fee. However, ⅔ of travel agents with 6-10 years of experience reported charging a fee. This data aligns with the information from our 2018 travel agent income survey, where it was found it that it takes 3-5 years to become entrenched in the industry and to really start monetizing their business.
Below is a graph that shows the tendency for hosted agents to report charging fees at a higher rate as they gain more experience.
Travel Agent Fees According to Niche
Travel agent niche also had a large impact on whether or not travel agents charged fees. The top five niches with with the highest rate of travel agents reporting they charged fees were:
- Destination Specialist
- River Cruise
You may wonder why we didn’t include “Other” as number 3 on this list as depicted in the image below. The reason for this is that “other” included a variety of write-in niches such as culinary, special needs travel, all-inclusive, European FITs as well as other niches. What can we say? Travel agents can’t be put in a box!
What Kind of Fees Do Hosted Agents Charge?
We’ll just jump right into what everyone wants to know: How many hosted travel agents charge a fee? Here’s your answer: 47% of hosted travel agents charged some kind of fee.
Before we dive into what types of fees hosted agents charge, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to fee definitions. We explored two different types of fees in our survey:
- Service Fees: Typically flat fees per transaction/ segment of a trip (i.e. car, rail, air, hotel, change fee etc.). Service fees are more typical among corporate agents or for transactions without commission. (Read more on commissions here!)
- Consultation Fees: Commonly pertain to time/expertise used to plan, research, or book a trip and/or support clients during their trip.
When we’re looking at hosted travel agents, 23% charged a service fee, 9% charged a consultation fee, and 15% charged a combination of the two.
Among hosted agents, 23% charged a service fee, 9% charged a consultation fee, and 15% charged a combination of the two.
Where a hosted agency conducts business—storefront or home-based—was a key component in determining the likelihood of charging fees. Hosted agents with a storefront agency were much more likely to charge fees: 80% of hosted travel agents with storefront agencies reported charging a fee, whereas only 45% of hosted home based agents charged a fee.
Hosted storefront agencies were also much more likely to charge both service fees and consultation fees—31% compared to 14% among home based agents who are hosted.
Service Fees and Hosted Travel Agents
services hosted agents charge for, and how much they charge
38% of hosted agents charged a service fee. Of those, 15% charge both a service fee and consultation fee.
A fee for air ticketing was the most common type of service that all agents charged, including hosted agents. 46% of hosted agents reported booking air-only reservations. Hosted agents booking air-only were much more likely to charge fees than hosted agents in general, with 65% reporting that they charge fees (compared to 38% of hosted agents overall).
Air-only bookings were also the most common service fee charged among hosted agents: 56% of hosted agents charged for domestic air, and 51% charge for international air.
The top five service fees hosted agents charged for:
- Air ticketing: 56% charged for domestic, 51% charged for international
- FIT: 29%
- Rail Tickets: 16%
- Air-Inclusive packages: 15%
- Tour packages: 15%
Hungry for more details? You can see the complete results in this graph below:
The data in the graph includes the percentage of hosted agents that report charging a service fee for that particular type of travel (yep, we’re excluding consultation fees right now). For each service, the graph lists the median fee . It also shows the quantile range (labeled as "IQ" on graph) of fees charged. Whoa back up. Quantile? Range? What the heck is that?
A typical "range" would show us the lowest and highest fee. But the quantile range helps us remove outliers in order to get a clearer picture of moderate fee-charging practices. But if you are an outlier who charges a $1,000 service fee for booking international air and your client isn’t Jeff Bezos or Beyoncé, please do tell us your strategy.
Hosted agent service fees by region
We used domestic and international air-ticketing as the standard to gauge service fee charges by region. It’s kind of like how people are more likely to track the cost of milk (airline ticketing fees) compared to say, avocados (a rail ticket).
Most notably, every stinking US region had a mode of $50 for international tickets. That was hands-down the most popular service fee amount. For domestic air, every US region had a mode of $25 with the exception of New England which clocked in at $35 (those rebels!).
We’re also happy to announce that, not only did we get more data on Canada this year, but Canada also reported the highest mode for both domestic and international air.
I know. I know, it’s not a contest, but it’s a fun fact right? What can I say? Canadian travel agents march to the beat of their own drum, with a mode of $50 CAD (~$38 USD) for domestic air and $75CAD (~$57 USD) for international air.
For domestic air, all US regions reported $25 on the lower end, and half the regions reported $50 as the upper end of service fee charges, while the other reported their highest fees were $30-$40. (Yep, you guessed it . . . we used quantile ranges for this data set!)
For international air, there was more variety among quantile ranges, with New England and the Pacific Coast charging on the higher ends ($88 and $100 respectively).
Consultation Fees and Hosted Travel Agents
How many hosted travel agents charge consultation fees, and what is their fee structure?
The second type of travel agent fees we looked at in the survey were consultation fees. 24% of hosted agents charged a consultation fee.
We broke down consultation fees into flat fees, per person fees, hourly fees and other. Respondents also had the opportunity to provide a range for their specific fees if their consultation fees varied (according to client, complexity of trip etc).
The most popular consultation fee type was a flat fee: 65% of agents with consultation fees charged a flat fee (median of $75), 17% charged a per person fee (median of $50), 5% charged an hourly fee (median of $100), and 13% charged a different model, (“other”).
In our survey, we asked agents if their consultation fees varied. Agents who didn't have a set fee had the opportunity to write in the range of their fees (i.e. I might charge between $30-$50/ hr. for consultation depending on the complexity of the trip). The chart below shows the breakdown of consultation fees, including median set fees, and the median range from agents who wrote in a variable fee:
There was a whole lot of “other” going on, when it came to consultation fees! Among agents who selected “other” for a consultation fee structure, some mentioned their consultation fees varied depending on length of trip, complexity of trip, the group size, the itinerary, or whether or not their client’s dog was cute (yeah, I’m testing to see if you’re still awake).
One consultation fee structure possibility that we want to highlight is a “plan to go” or “book to go” model. This is when your client pays a flat fee to begin working with you. Once you book the client's trip, you can apply that fee toward their booking.
A plan to go fee ensures the client has some skin in the game, and that not all is lost if, for some reason, they jump ship and book online.
“Plan to Go” is a great fee consultation fee structure for newer agents who don’t feel 100% confident in charging a fee. (You’ll get there!). Plus, it will help you deflect the tire-kickers.
Speaking of feeling hesitant to charge charge fees . . .
Why Travel Agents Chose Not to Charge Fees
Travel agents typically all the have the same reasons for not charging a fee (regardless if they’re independent or hosted).
What were the top 3 reasons agents chose not to charge fees in 2018?
- I might not be able to attract new clients.
- I don’t have enough experience to charge fees.
- I just don’t want to.
We were so excited by our record-breaking survey and all its ensuing data! This year, we worked with superstar research analyst, Dr. Maga Gei, to help us crank out the data.
Also, travel agents didn’t just show up out of the woodwork to take our survey! We had soooooo much support from industry partners who help us push our survey. We want to give a special thanks to these organizations helping us spread the word:
- Travel Research Online
- Cruise Planners
- Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialist Association (DWHSA)
- KHM Travel Group
- Travel Planners International
- Travel Quest
A Miniature Glossary of Terms:
Median: The median is the middle value in the set of numbers. (That’s right, the middle child of data!) We used the median value to determine age and years of experience. This helped us get a clearer picture of the “average” agent, by eliminating outliers that skew the data.
Mode: The mode is the number that appears most often in a set of numbers. For our purposes, it means that it was the most frequently-occurring response among travel agents who answered the question. We used mode to determine the most common amount charged for certain service fees, in order to give a clearer picture of what the “typical” agent is most likely to charge.
Quantile Range: The Quantile Range removes measures the range of results within the 25th and 75th% percentile. This means the range excludes the data from the lowest 25% and the highest 25%, eliminating the lower and upper outliers and offering a picture of more moderate fee charging practices.
- This is probably not a coincidence. Our data found that most storefront agents were independent, so the higher number of independent agents naturally correlate to a greater number of storefront agencies as well. ↩