The Hosted Travel Agent Income Report, 2020

October 29, 2020

The results for our 2020 Travel Agent Income Survey are in! If you’re new to Host Agency Reviews’ (HAR) surveys (😮), you may not know that we look at income data a whole lotta different ways!

Modesty aside, this data is pretty great. Why? Because it offers crystal-clear clarity on a segment of the travel industry that can be pretty elusive. This report focuses on the latest income trends among hosted travel agents with 3+ years experience. 1

Back to our regular programming: We’re excited to offer you an overview of hosted travel agent income. But we’re even more excited to wax nostalgic about travel agent income in 2019, when COVID was not even a twinkle in the travel industry’s eye. (Sigh).

Hosted Agent Snapshot

Here’s a sneak preview:

  1. 17%: The amount average income increased from last year
  2. 46% of agents that reported an increase in sales from previous year
  3. 74% of agents who worked FT (a 13% higher response rate than last year)
  4. 66% of agents felt fairly compensated (down from 74% last year)
  5. 94% of agents were home based
  6. 21% of hosted agencies reported having ICs
  7. 87% of hosted agents identified as women
  8. 56: Average age of this segment
  9. 15: Average years of experience among this segment

Holy cats! This is some juicy info. Let’s dig in.

Hosted Travel Agent Income Report, Infographic

Below, our infographic gives a visual snapshot of the fathoms of data we're about to explore:

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Drumroll Please: A Summary of Hosted Travel Agent Income

This year’s results are a silver lining in the wake of challenges faced to the industry in 2020. Trends indicate that more travel agents sold travel as their primary source of income, and more agents sold travel full time in 2019 than ever before.

Full-time hosted travel agents earned an average of $64,377 in 2019

Even better, full-time hosted travel agents earned an average of $64,377 in 2019. This is nearly $3,000 more than last year, when FT hosted agents earned $61,427.

This indicates the (pre-COVID) health of the industry for those seeking to sell travel as a full time career.

The average income among hosted travel agents increased 17% between 2018 and 2019!

When you pan out to include our entire segment reported here, adding part-time hosted advisors into the mix, the overall average income (including part-time and full-time hosted travel agents) was $51,723. This is huge. Why? The averaged income among hosted travel agents increased 17% between 2018 and 2019! Huzzah!

But not all travel agents are the same. Income varied significantly according to experience, hours worked and other fun factors. Let’s explore what factors help boost earnings.

Hosted Travel Agent Income & Hours Worked


MORE HOSTED TRAVEL AGENTS SOLD TRAVEL FULL TIME

Year over year, more agents report selling travel full time. This year, 74% of hosted agents reported working full time. This is a 13% higher response rate from last year, when only 61% sold FT.

Before COVID, selling travel had become an even more promising career trajectory over time.

The greater likelihood to work FT mirrors the data on hosted agents who reported selling travel as a primary source of income: 74% of hosted agents reported that selling travel was their primary source of income. This is a higher response rate than last year when only 60% of hosted agents reported that selling travel was their primary source of income, a trend that has repeated since we started the survey four years ago.

The graph below illustrates the increasing percentage of hosted agents who reported working full time over time:

Hosted Agent Working FT


This speaks to the increasing viability of a travel career over time, before the disruption of COVID2


FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME AGENTS, AN INCOME COMPARISON

Earning an average of $64,377, FT hosted travel agents earned 24% more than the overall average income ($51,723). FT agents also enjoyed a 5% pay increase compared to FT agents in last year’s survey.

FT agents earned almost 4x more than their part-time counterparts: In 2019, PT agents reported earning $16,447 on average.

Data also indicates that FT agents earned almost 4x more than their part-time (PT) counterparts. In 2019, PT agents reported earning $16,447 on average.

In addition to earning substantially less than their FT peers, PT agents also experienced an income cut in 2019. When looking at PT agents only, hosted agents earned 4% less than what their peers earned the year prior. 3.

The graph below shows how income trended over time among FT and PT agents:

FT & PT Hosted Income over time


FT hosted agents have seen a gradual increase in income over time, whereas the PT agents experienced a steadier income levels and a slight decline in 2019.


BREAKDOWN OF INCOME AND HOURS WORKED

As work hours increased, so did income. Without exception, income increased—oftentimes exponentially—as travel agents clocked more hours.

Among PT agents who sold travel, those who worked the most PT hours (21-30) earned almost 2.5 times more than those who worked the fewest PT hours (6-10).4

Among FT agents, those who worked 51-59 hours/week earned 1.5x more than those who worked 31-40 hours.

Hosted agents who put in overtime (60+ hours) earned significantly more, banking 1.6x more than those who worked 51-59 hours.

Below is a graph that illustrates hours worked compared to income:

Income vs. Hours Worked 2020


Percentage of Income from Selling Travel

This year for the first time, we asked agents what portion of their income was from selling travel if they indicated that it wasn’t their primary source of income: In 2019, this segment reported that selling travel made up only 23% of their total income.

Over time, this question will give us a better picture of the sustainability of selling travel PT.


Hosted Travel Agent Income Based on Years of Experience

When you include newbies into the mix (agents with 0-2 years experience) the average experience of hosted agents is 13 years.

But this report focuses on hosted agents with 3+ years. Among this segment, the average experience leaps to 15 years. That’s a lot!

Typically, agents earn more as they gain experience. However, this year there are a few exceptions to this generalization: Average income for agents with 9-11 years experience slightly dipped below that of agents with 6-8 years experience and the average income among agents with 15+ years experience was more than $3,500 less than those with only 12-14 years of experience.

2020 Income & Yrs. of Experience


In 2019 agents with 12-14 years of experience saw a leap in income, reporting over $11,000 more on average when compared to agents with commensurate experience in 2018.

The 12-14 years experience segment experienced the greatest income growth in 2019. This may, in part, account for their higher earnings than their more experienced peers, departing from the more general trend of higher income with more experience.

Experience seemed to have less of an impact on earnings among PT agents. Below is a graph that compares FT and PT income levels by years of experience:

2020 FT/PT Income & Experience


FT agents more consistently enjoyed income increases with experience, where PT agents' income increased more modestly.

If you have any hypotheses as to why some agents may earn less as they gain experience (body-snatchers, obviously), we’d love to hear them in the comments below. :)


Hosted Travel Agent Income & Niche

Every year we look at income in relationship to travel agent speciality. This year, for the first time, we asked agents to specify whether they were "generalists" or whether they specialized. Here's the info:

What Niches did Travel Agents Report?

For the first time, we asked agents if they considered themselves “generalists.” This new question had a large impact on how respondents reported their niche when compared to previous surveys.

Including “generalist” as an option changed the distribution of agents within different specialty categories in comparison to previous years5.

45% of agents reported they were generalists, booking whatever their clients want. Another 30% reported they were working toward a niche, but will book anything.6

Below is a graph illustrated how agents responded when asked if they had a niche:

2020 Do Hosted Agents Have a Niche?


On the flip side, 25% of agents reported having a niche. What specialties did hosted agents gravitate towards?

Not including "other,"7 the top three niches in 2019 were:

  1. Luxury: 19%
  2. Ocean Cruises: 16%
  3. Weddings/ Honeymoons 14%

Of agents who reported a niche, below the graph illustrates the percentage of agents by all the specialities below:

Distribution of hosted Agents Who reported a niche 2020


Hosted Agent Income by Niche

A travel agent’s chosen niche had a significant impact on income, with luxury agents earning 3x more than those who sold ocean cruises.

Despite variations in income by niche, the vast majority of hosted agents, 86%, would choose the same niche again.

Below the graph shows income ranked by niche. In this sample, we included “generalist” even though it’s not a niche. This allowed us to compare income of generalists next to those who specialize:

2020 Hosted Income By Niche

Despite variations in income by niche, the vast majority of hosted agents, 86%, would choose the same niche again.


What Products Earned the Most Income for Hosted Agents?

In our survey we ask, “which travel products do you sell the most of?” Looking at common travel products is another way to home in on hosted travel agent speciality—especially when so many respondents reported that they were generalists.

Products also had an impact on income. Travel agents who reported FITs were their top product reported the highest average income in 2019, $71,924.

In 2019, cruises was the most common product sold despite the fact only 9% of respondents considered ocean cruises as niche. This indicates that a lot of agents book cruises but most of them don’t identify as cruise specialists.

In addition to ocean cruises, here’s the top three travel products hosted travel agents sold in 2019:

  1. Ocean Cruises (35%)
  2. All-Inclusive Resorts (29%)
  3. FIT (16%)

Compared to last year's survey, FITs experienced the most significant growth in sales among hosted agents. The remaining categories In addition to registering the highest income potential, the sales of FITs has also increased its market share among hosted agents over time. The response rate for selling FITs has increased from 9% in our 2019 survey to 16% response rate in our 2020 survey. The remaining products held relatively steady among hosted agents.8.

Below you can find a complete list of travel products sold and the percentage of hosted agents who reported it was their top product9.

What hosted agents sold in 2020

In addition to experiencing growth in market share among hosted agent, FIT products also had the strongest correlation to higher income: Travel agents who reported FITs were their top product reported the highest average income in 2019, $71,924.

Below you can see a complete list of average income by respondents’ top products:

2020 hosted income by product

There was a significant 58% spread between highest and lowest-earning products (FITs and Ocean Cruises respectively).


Hosted Travel Agent Income Breakdown

In our survey we ask agents to share their total travel income. Additionally, we also ask about the individual revenue streams that comprise their overall income. Possible travel agent revenue streams include commissions, service and/or consultation fees, and other travel-related income (e.g. bonuses, or income from speaking, coaching, mentoring etc.).

Every category of income—commission, fees, and other income—increased in 2019.

In 2019, more hosted agents reported charging service fees (38% this year, compared to 33% last year). The percentage who charged consultation fees held steady at 14%.

Additionally, more agents reported earning “other” travel-related income also escalated significantly in 2019: Here’s the breakdown below including average income from each source and how much it increased from the previous year:

2020 hosted agent income breakdown

Fees are a whole different beast when it comes to data. If you're jonesing for more in-depth fee data, you’re in luck because we have a treasure trove in our annual Travel Agent Fee Survey.


PLANS TO CHARGE FEES?

Charging fees is one way to stabilize and increase a travel agent’s bottom line when it comes to income.

This year, we asked agents who didn’t charge service and/or consultation fees if they would consider charging them in light of COVID.

In response, 59% reported that they were planning on charging fees after COVID.

For those curious to learn more about charging fees, watch HAR’s webinar, The Evolving Landscape of Fees During COVID.


BOOKING VOLUME FROM WEBSITE BOOKING ENGINES.

HAR also asked respondents about income from online booking engines in our survey. In 2019, 75% of hosted travel agents reported having a travel agency website. Of those who do have a website, 24% reported having an online booking engine (OBE).

Among agents who reported having a booking engine on their site, 64% reported they yielded no bookings via this channel.

Among agents who reported having a booking engine on their site, 64% reported they yielded no bookings via this channel. 31% received 1-5 bookings and the remaining respondents received more bookings. Here’s the details below:

2020 hosted number of online bookings


Are you one of the 25% with no website? Check our article on travel agency websites.


Income and Gender

85% of hosted respondents to our 2020 survey were women (compared to 82% last year). Despite their collective majority in 2020, women were subject to a gender income gap, earning 92¢ to the dollar of their male counterparts.

In 2019, travel agents who identified as women earned $50,659 on average, 8% less than men who earned $54,959.

In 2019, travel agents who identified as women earned $50,659 on average, 8% less than men who earned $54,959.

This gap exists despite the fact that women reported at a higher rate than men that selling travel was their primary source of income (77% compared to 55%).

Additionally, women were more likely to charge fees (47% compared to 42% of men), and women and men responded similarly to acquiring certification (29% of women and 30% of men).

Despite this disparity, the wage gap between women and men is a large improvement from last year when women earned 79¢ to the dollar.

Additionally, women were slightly more likely to charge fees (47% compared to 42% of men), and women and men responded similarly to acquiring certification (29% of women and 30% of men).

Despite this disparity, the wage gap between women and men is a large improvement from last year when women earned 79¢ to the dollar.


Industry Engagement and Hosted Travel Agent Income

Industry engagement had a substantial impact on earnings. Travel agents who invested in organization membership and/or acquired at least one industry-specific certification earned significantly more than those who did not.

Here’s the deets:


ASTA MEMBERSHIP AND INCOME

54% of travel advisors reported they were members of ASTA (American Society of Travel Advisors) and/or ASTA-SBN (ASTA-Small Business Network). That’s fantastic news as supporting the association that gives travel agencies a voice in Washington is more important than ever as our industry faces the challenges of Covid. Find out more about becoming an ASTA member.

ASTA members earned 17% more income on average compared to those who were not members.

Does belonging to a travel agent association make a difference? Our data indicates that the answer is a resounding yes.

With an average income of $60,322 annually, ASTA member earned 17% more income on average compared to those who were not members.

It’s also important to point out that the majority of ASTA members sell travel as a primary source of income. Among ASTA members, 84% reported that selling travel was their primary source of income, compared to 74% of all respondents.


TRAVEL CERTIFICATIONS AND INCOME

There are a bounty of certifications available to travel agents. In our survey, travel agents had an opportunity to select from 11 different travel certification options (or write one in). But how do they ultimately impact income potential?

Travel agents with at least one certification reported a 9% more income compared to the overall average ($54,944 compared to $51,723). This indicates that completing travel agent certifications can offer a significant pay bump, even if it doesn’t have quite the impact as association membership.


Hosted Travel Agent Income, by Region

In our survey we looked at the number of respondents and average income by region.

One of the unique things about working as a travel agent is the cost of living of an agent's region isn't necessarily reflective of their earning potential since commission levels depend on supplier contracts.

While commissions are influenced by a whole lot of different factors, where a hosted travel agent lives isn't one of them: An agent who sells Disney in MN is going to get the same commission as the agent who sells Disney from NY (even if their NY rent is 3x the cost).

In 2019 the top-earning income averages came from:

  1. Pacific Coast: $80,395
  2. New England: $77,693
  3. Appalachia: $67,358

Here's a complete breakdown of income by region.10:

Here’s the complete breakdown of income by region:

2020 Hosted agent income by region


Regional income has not been consistent from year to year. Do the regional findings seem accurate in comparison to your income? If these numbers aren’t reflective of what you earned, we’d love for you to participate in next year’s survey! Psst, we had low responses rates from New England, Pacific Coast, Mountain regions, and all Canadian provinces. If you’re from one of those areas, your participation will have a huge impact!


Job Satisfaction Among Hosted Travel Agents

66% of hosted agents felt their 2019 income was fair compensation. Among the 34% who desired an increase in income, the majority (44%) felt they deserved a 11-25% pay increase.

“The overwhelming majority of hosted agents, 90%, would choose a career as a travel agent again if they had the choice.

Despite this, most hosted agents, 72%, are either “happy and satisfied” or “super happy and satisfied” with their career as a travel advisor. You can see the full breakdown of job satisfaction below:

hosted agent job satisfaction 2020


In fact, the overwhelming majority of hosted agents, 90%, would choose a career as a travel agent again if they had the choice. We love to see this kind of passion!


The Coveted Six-Figure Hosted Agent Income! (Known as the K-Rex Advisors!)

Two years ago, we started the time-honored tradition of looking at what percentage of agents take home $100,000+ in income. These agents have affectionately become known as: The K-Rex Advisors.

This year, 16% of hosted agents reported their travel income was $100,000 or more. This is significantly higher than last year's 10%! We’re happy to know that this segment of the industry is alive and well.

2020 hosted agent 100k+

We're thrilled to see that agents are reaching this milestone!

Go you! And if you're here doing a little benchmarking for your agency, wondering how you can push your agency to get there, here's a few resources: listen to our Travel Agent Chatter (TAC) podcasts to hear from top-producing agents or check out some of our stellar marketing articles!

Are you curious to know what these K-Rex advisors’ secret sauce might be? We were too. Here’s the gossip:

  1. 75% had over 100 clients (WOWZER!)
  2. 73% had at least one (or more) certification
  3. 70% belong to ASTA and 40% belong to CLIA (they're engaged!)

Want to join the club? Check out our travel agency business plan template to help you begin scaling your travel agency business!


Where Are You Going When Travel Is Wheel’s Up?

Perhaps the most anticipated data of all, is the answer to this question: where are you going to go when travel restrictions are no longer.

Fun Q&A 2020


The majority of hosted travel agents (51%) want to hightail it outta the United States (or Canada) and visit another country. A lot of hosted agents are itching to cruise too (37%).

Hosted agents are less enthusiastic about road trips (8%), and 4% will go anywhere so long as it’s away from their partner, pets, and kids.


Key Takeaways

  1. Full-time hosted agents earned 17% more than FT hosted agents last year.
  2. Year over year, more hosted agents reported working full time. This year, 74% of hosted agents reported working full time. This is a 13% jump from last year, when only 61% sold FT.
  3. This year, for the first time, we asked agents what portion of their income was from selling travel if they indicated that it wasn’t their primary source of income: This segment reported that selling travel made up only 23% of their total income.
  4. 45% of hosted agents reported they were generalists, receiving a much higher response rate than any speciality reported.
  5. In 2019, more agents reported charging service fees, 38% this year, compared to 33% last year. The percent of agents reporting they charged a consultation fee held steady at 14%.
  6. Average income from all four revenue streams—commissions, service fees, consultation fees and "other" travel-related income—increased.
  7. There was a significant increase in hosted agents who reported earning $100,000+ in 2019 (16% compared to 10% in 2019)


Data Is the Gift that Keeps on Giving . . . Stay Tuned

Um. Wow. That was pretty thrilling. If you're as excited by this data as the HAR crew, then you're definitely in the right industry!!!! We are cooking up other great information including a report on independent agents, new-to-industry agents, a demographic report, and travel agency employees (a first ever!).


A Huge THANK YOU

I'd like to credit our phenomenal participation rate to our t-rex suits and our shining personalities, but the fact of the matter is that in order to get this great data, we rely on wonderful advisors like you who take the survey and spread the word. Don’t want to miss out on next year’s survey? Sign up here for reminders when the survey opens.

We also have amazing industry partners who support our work and push the survey out to their networks. Who are these fabulous host agencies, franchises, and travel organizations?

A colossal thank you to these hosts and franchises: ASTA, Travel Leaders Network, Ensemble, Destination Wedding University, Gifted Travel Network, KHM Travel Group, Nexion Travel Group, Travel Planners International, Travel Quest Network, and Uniglobe Travel Center.

Want to work with us on upcoming surveys? Drop us a line: stephanie [at] hostagencyreviews.com


Past Income Survey Results & Data

You’re not full of info? You want to gorge yourself on more great data? Sate your voracious curiosity and a look at HAR’s income survey archive (which includes results to every survey we’ve conducted since the beginning of HAR)!


The Method to Our Madness

Overall, 929 advisors responded to our 2020 Income survey.

This report profiles hosted travel agents with 3+ years of experience. 250 respondents met our criteria to be included in this particular report (more on that soon).

Is the concept of a host agency new to you? I highly recommend you check out this article, "What Is a Host Agency," which will give you a foundation on what HAR is all about.


THE NITTY GRITTY

We know some of you may be seriously loving our data and looking for a few more details on the process.

Here's an overview of how we arrived at our numbers:

We know some of you may be seriously loving our data and looking for a few more details on the process.

Here's an overview of how we arrived at our numbers:

1. 250 respondents met our criteria to be included in this report. Here's our criteria below:

  1. They’re hosted.
  2. They have 3+ years of experience: It's unlikely that agents will earn significant income in the first year or two of setting up shop. Why? 1.) It takes time to develop a book of business. 2.) Even if you hit the ground running, commissions aren't remitted until client travel is complete or after final payment, which can be a year or more in the future.
  3. They agreed to share their income information. Seems obvious, but we can’t report numbers if a respondent doesn’t share them with us :)

2. Income data is pre-COVID. HAR’s income survey was conducted in July and August of 2020. Travel agents used their annual 2019 income numbers to complete our survey. For this reason, these numbers are not reflective of a post-COVID industry.

3. Agents tallied were active agents. We only took income averages from agents who reported an income of $500 or greater.

4. Income reported is before deductions. We recorded income before deductions because agents are all over the map in terms of expenses. Some agents write off 100% of their income. Some agents write off nothing. For this reason, we look at gross income.

5. Some outliers were removed. If you made $9 million in individual sales, we’re really happy for you! But extremely high outliers for individual sales (not agency) sales were removed to present a more accurate picture of what earnings to expect.

6. We round to the nearest percent or dollar. What can I say? It's easier on the eyes when you're wading through so much data. (Sorry, decimal points. We still love you.)



Footnotes

  1. For this report, we profile hosted agents with 3+ years of experience. Agents with fewer years experience will be included in our forthcoming new agent report.
  2. We will explore the impact of COVID in next year’s survey.
  3. when PT agents reported earning $17,185 on average
  4. Not enough income data was available for agents who worked fewer than 5 hours/week
  5. In 2018, the top three niches reported were cruise, family and destination.
  6. Blank responses were not considered in this data.
  7. Agents had the opportunity to select from 16 different niches. We didn’t receive sufficient data from Disney, LGBTQ+, MICE, Corporate, Heritage Travel, or Medical Tourism. These specialties as well as write-ins were aggregated into our “other” category.
  8. Want more specific data? Give us a holler at Steph {at} HostAgencyReviews.Com to inquire about a full report. There's more where this came from
  9. Other category includes an aggregate of categories that received less than a 2% response rate: Airlines (1.6%), Hotels (1.2%), Disney (<1%), write-ins (1.2%)
  10. For the purposes of continuity, Canadian income was converted to USD
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.