The New Hosted Travel Agent Report, 2021
One of Host Agency Reviews’ primary missions is to minimize the friction to entering the travel industry in hopes of making information as transparent as possible, and accessibility as open as possible. Our New Hosted Travel Agent Report is an opportunity to take a look at this thriving industry segment. It’s like a data-driven love letter to all the newbies with 0-2 years of experience under their belt.
16% of respondents of our latest Travel Agent Income Survey were new hosted agents. The data ideal for suppliers, host agencies, and other travel organizations to get a pulse on who's entering the industry. In this report, we take a look at this segment. Who are they? What products are they gravitating to? What business models are they embracing? What barriers are unique to this segment and how can we help?
The data also offers new advisors an opportunity to benchmark their startup and gauge their travel agency practices according to the latest trends. Here we’ll look at new travel agent income, fees, operations (niche, hours worked), job satisfaction, fees, and more.
⭐️ HAR Article Highlights: ⭐️
- Infographic: New Hosted Travel Agent Report: A visual look at the data
- New Hosted Travel Agent Experience
- New Hosted Travel Agent Demographics
- New Hosted Agent Work Hours
- Startup Costs for New Hosted Travel Agents
- New Hosted Travel Agent Income by Years of Experience
- Full-Time vs. Part-Time Median Income For New Agents
- Client Volume Increases in First Two Years for New Hosted Agents
- Industry Engagement Among New Hosted Advisors
- New Hosted Agent Niche & Products
- New Hosted Travel Agent Job Satisfaction
Infographic: New Hosted Travel Agent Report
Whether you're a new agent here to compare your income and investment to your peers or a travel professional who wants to take a pulse on the direction of the hosted agent segment, you've come to the right place!
Here's a visual of some of the data we'll be mining on the new hosted agent segment:
New Hosted Travel Agent Experience
Just how new is new? We're talking about agents with 0-2 years of experience. A lot happens in the first few years of starting a travel agency, so we like to get microscopic when it comes to the experience of new advisors.
Among all hosted respondents, 22% were new hosted agents. Within this segment, 22% reported less than one year of experience, 28% had one year of experience, and 50% had two years of experience.
This year, half of new hosted advisors reported two years of experience. This distribution is a significant shift from last year when only 33% reported two years of experience.
The graph below indicates the redistribution of new hosted advisors over time:
The percentage of advisors just starting out dipped five points from 27% in our 2020 survey, to 22% in 2021. However, this decrease has been trending since we started profiling new hosted advisors in 2018. This makes it difficult to determine if the pandemic was a factor in impacted entry to the industry.
The results from our currently-running 2022 travel advisor survey will offer a clearer idea of the pandemic’s effect on the entry into the industry if any.
Generational Distribution of New Hosted Travel Agents
You can be new to travel yet seasoned in life. The median age of the newbie hosted agent was 50 years, five years fewer than the median of all hosted respondents (55).
The majority of newbies, 50%, were Gen Xers. This is an eight-point increase from last year, when only 42% of travel agents were Gen Xers. There was also a 3-point bump in the percentage of millennials who entered the industry, 24% compared to 21% last year. These increases were at the expense of a dwindling representation of boomers, a segment that dropped from 29% last year to 22% this year.
Here’s a full look below:
Gender Distribution of New Hosted Travel Agents
79% of newbies identified as women. This is seven points lower compared to new agents in 2019 (86%), and lower than hosted agents overall (84%).
The travel agent industry is a female-dominated sector. If new advisors are an indication of the future demographic landscape of gender distribution, the data suggest this trend won’t change anytime soon
Racial/Ethnic Backgrounds of New Hosted Travel Agents
In 2020, 71% of new hosted travel agents identified solely as white/Caucasian. Among non-white advisors, 14% identified as Black/African American, and 6% identified as multi-racial (more than one racial/ethnic background). The graph below illustrates the current data:
Two racial/ethnic categories saw an increase in response rate compared to the prior year. The percentage of advisors identifying as Black/African American increased from 12% to 14%, and advisors identifying as White/Caucasian increased from 69% to 71%.
Multi-racial, Asian, Hispanic/Latinx/Spanish, American Indian or Alaskan Native, either remained the same or decreased.
Did New Hosted Agents Work Part Time or Full Time?
Before COVID, 33% of new hosted advisors worked full time. This dropped 10 points to 23% after the pandemic outbreak. The graph below shows COVID’s impact on the ratio of full-time and part-time new hosted advisors. 1
Startup Costs for New Hosted Travel Agents
We asked the newest hosted advisors, those with 0-1 year experience, how much they invested in starting their agency. Travel agency startup costs vary A LOT.
In 2021, the range of startup costs varied between $0 to $100,000. Not so helpful if you're trying to get an idea of what you can expect for an investment but we’ll add some context to help you get a better idea of your situation
Startup costs vary depending on how much you're investing in travel education and certification, what type of agency you're running, how fancy a website you want, and a ton of other factors.
Here are new hosted agent startup costs, served 4 ways:
1. Average: The sum of numbers (in this case startup costs) divided by the number of total entries. In other words, a number that is representative of a loooooooong list of numbers.
2. Median: The median is the middle value of startup costs. (That’s right, the middle child of data!) This helped us get a clearer picture of the “average” agent, by eliminating outliers that may impact averages.
3. 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 reported their startup costs. 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.
4. Range: Last but not least, we look at the percentage of new hosted agents who reported startup costs within different ranges. This is a helpful way to include the outlying data by showing the volume of advisors investing at all different price points.
1. AVERAGE STARTUP COSTS FOR NEW HOSTED AGENTS
The average startup cost for new hosted agents was $4,290.
The average is the sum of numbers (in this case startup costs) divided by the number of total entries. In other words, a number that is representative of a loooooooong list of numbers.
The average startup cost for new hosted agents was $4,290. This is a 42% investment increase from last year’s survey when the average startup was $2,478.
2. MEDIAN STARTUP COSTS FOR NEW HOSTED AGENTS
The median value, $2,000, is likely the most accurate measure of anticipated startup costs for new agents.
The median is the middle value of startup costs. (That’s right, the middle child of data!) This helps us get a clearer picture of the “typical” agent. Since the median pulls the middle value, it's not as impacted by outliers as the average is. For that reason, the median value, $2,000, may be a more accurate measure of anticipated startup costs for new agents. This is an increase from last year when the median startup cost was $1,500.
One reason for a higher median is that fewer hosted agents reported very low startup costs: In 2019, 44% of new hosted agents reported startup costs under $1,000. However, in 2020, only 33% of agents invested less than $1,000 to get started.
Read below where we’ll chat about the range of startup costs!
3. THE MODE STARTUP COSTS FOR NEW HOSTED TRAVEL AGENTS
The mode startup cost for new hosted advisors in 2020 was $1,000.
Mode is a fancy statistical word for the startup cost that new hosted agents reported with the highest frequency. This is another good way to look at the most common startup cost. The startup cost mode for new hosted advisors in 2020 was $1,000.
None of these data are too surprising. Looking at startup costs from these angles will offer a pretty clear idea of how much you can expect to spend to start your agency.
4. PERCENT OF STARTUP INVESTMENT WITHIN DIFFERENT RANGES
When looking at different investment ranges, $1,000 - $2,000 was the most common response to the range of investment. This is the same as last year. Below the graph indicates what percentage of new hosted agents invested among different investment ranges in 2020:
New Hosted Travel Agent Income by Years of Experience
For travel agents, income can take even more time to generate than your average small business. Why? Income from commissions is (typically) not remitted until after a client travels (more on travel agent commissions here!).
It takes time for new agents to develop their business and attract clientele, and even when they do start booking travel, the money may take a year or more to land in an agent's bank account since travel may be booked out 4-12+ months.
For this reason, experience has a huge impact on income— even more so during the early years. Our previous income reports unilaterally indicate that experience is one of the strongest correlations to higher income (if not the strongest).
This year, COVID exacerbated the median income divide between advisors with 1 year and two years of experience. New hosted advisors’ median income was $0, whereas hosted advisors with two years of experience reported an annual median income of $1,075.
Full-Time vs. Part-Time Median Income For New Agents
Typically, work hours also have a significant impact on earnings for new hosted agents, with full-time advisors earning more. While this is true for 2020, the pandemic artificially closed the gap between full-time and part-time advisors.
Registering at $200 across the board, the median income didn’t vary between full-time vs. part-time agents in 2020. As we track income earning in our upcoming 2022 travel agent survey, we will have a better understanding of how hours may impact income during a recovery year.
Client Volume Increases in First Two Years for New Hosted Agents
Client volume didn’t vary much among new hosted advisors. However, the most seasoned new advisors were the only bracket to report having more than 100 clients. The graph below illustrates client volume in the first few years of selling travel:
Deflated by the pandemic, the new hosted advisors reported a lower volume of clients compared to last year. Last year’s new hosted income results may offer a more accurate look at what client volume new advisors can anticipate.
Industry Engagement Among New Hosted Advisors
When it came to travel agent certifications and membership in travel associations, new hosted travel agents were in step with their more experienced peers.
TRAVEL AGENT CERTIFICATIONS
57% of new hosted agents had at least one certification overall. This is close to last year when 58% reported earning certification.
This year, experience had little impact on the likelihood to be certified. 60% of first-year advisors were certified compared to 63% of their peers with another year under their belt. Here’s how it broke down:
TRAVEL ASSOCIATION MEMBERSHIP
Membership to travel associations is one metric we use to measure industry engagement. There's a ton of different associations for travel advisors, with associations ranging in focus from industry advocacy (American Society of Travel Advisors, ASTA), to niche-focused (Adventure Travel and Trade Association, ATTA), or organizations that support underrepresented advisor groups (Association of Black Travel Professionals, ABTP or International LGBTQ Travel Association, IGLTA). That barely scratches the surface, but it gives you an idea of what's out there!
57% of new hosted agents reported belonging to at least one travel association, indicating that participation levels sustained among new hosted advisors from last year when 59% reported belonging to an association.
Association membership became more prominent as new advisors gained a foothold in the industry. Below is a breakdown of new hosted agents with at least one association membership according to experience level:
Association membership jumped from 55% for first-year advisors to 77% among their second-year peers, illustrating a significant industry investment in the early years of starting an agency.
New Hosted Agent Niche & Products
For the first time, we asked agents if they were generalists, had a niche, or were working toward a niche.
65% of new hosted agents have a niche, and 24% reported they were generalists2. New advisors were less likely to report a niche compared to their experienced hosted counterparts, where 75% of the segment reported a niche.
Among the 65% with a niche, the top three reported in 2020 were:
1. Ocean Cruise: 18%
2. Family Travel: 12%
3. Luxury: 10%
Below is a full breakdown of niches that new hosted advisors reported3.
What Products Did New Hosted Travel Agents Sell?
In addition to niche, looking at products sold offers another angle to look at what new hosted agents were selling in 2020.
The top four products sold in 2020 were:
1. All-Inclusive &
1. Ocean Cruises: 17%
2. Hotels: 15%
3. FITs: 11%
Below, the chart indicates all products new hosted agents reported selling:
How does this compare to their experienced hosted counterparts? Experienced hosts reported the same top three products as new hosted agents.
New Hosted Travel Agent Job Satisfaction
New hosted advisors were generally satisfied with their career choice, despite the pandemic. 23% were “super happy and satisfied” and 35% were “happy and satisfied.”
You can see a complete breakdown of responses below:
What were the woes of new hosted agents? Not surprisingly, the number one challenge for new travel advisor entrepreneurs was finding new clients. Here’s are the challenges, ranked, among new advisors during the pandemic:
But new hosted agents also reported many rewards to selling travel. The top answer was “I love everything about my job!” followed by “Job flexibility/Owning my own company.” Below you can see the full response:
A colossal thank you to these travel organizations: American Society of Travel Advisors, Association of Black Travel Professionals, CCRA, Destination Wedding Honeymoon Specialist Association, Ensemble Travel Group, Gifted Travel Network, Nexion Travel Group, Outside Agents, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Travel Quest Network, Travel Leaders Network, Travel Pulse, and Travel Research Online.
The Method to Our Madness
Overall, 1,098 advisors responded to our 2020 Income survey.
This report profiles hosted travel agents with 0-2 years of experience. 215 respondents met our criteria to be included in this particular report (more on that soon). Only those with one or two years of experience, 167 respondents, were asked for income information.
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:
- New hosted advisors with less than one year of experience selling travel are not asked income questions since they wouldn't have been operating for a full calendar year.
- In a departure from previous reports, this year we tallied median independent advisors' median income rather than average income. Median offers a more reliable look at what independent advisors were likely to make during the reporting year.
- Respondent data is from 2020: HAR’s travel agent survey was conducted between June 1st and July 31st of 2021. Advisors used their annual 2020 income numbers to complete our survey.
- Outliers were removed. In a typical year, we only include advisors who earn a minimum of $500 in income. However, as 2020 was an exceptional year, this report also includes those who earn $0-$500, with a few extreme outliers removed. (If you made $80,000,000 during a pandemic then holy moly! Go you! But for report purposes, we’ll go ahead and assume that’s an error.)
- 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.)