Travel Agent Employees: Income Report, 2020

January 29, 2021

This is a banner year for HAR’s Travel Agent Income Survey. Why? It’s the first time we’ve profiled travel agent employees in our reports.

Travel agent employees reported earning an average of $55,773 in our 2020 Travel Agent Income Survey.

We’re pretty excited about it because A.) we’re nerds and B.) it offers us an opportunity to look at income trends and work habits of different types of travel agents. This provides a clearer picture of the travel agent industry as a whole. That said, we're always interested in more data. Want to participate? Sign up below to get reminders:

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So how much did they earn? Travel agent employees reported earning an average of $55,773 in our 2020 Travel Agent Income Survey.

Buuuut . . . it’s not that simple. Travel agent employees had different work responsibilities, earned different benefits, and earned income in different ways

We’ll dive in and take our first-ever look at travel agent employees to learn who they are, how they work, and how they earn income.

How does this compare to hosted and independent agents. Check out HAR's entire archive of income reports!


Travel Agent Employee Income Report, Infographic

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


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What Type of Travel Agent Employees Took Our Survey?

We asked travel agent employees about their work responsibilities breaking it down into three categories:

  1. Managerial duties (only)
  2. Front line sales (only)
  3. Both (front line sales and managerial duties)

Here’s how travel agent employees responded:

Travel Agent Employee Survey

The majority of travel agent employees worked front line sales, 59%. Only 5% had managerial responsibilities only and 36% wore both hats.


How Did Job Responsibilities Impact Income?

Want to be a boss? You might want to think again if you're a travel agent employee: Front line travel agent employees earned slightly more (4%) than front line agents withmanagerial responsibilities ($54,017 compared to $52,099 respectively). 😮

Front line travel agent employees earned slightly more (4%) than front line agents withmanagerial responsibilities.

We didn't have sufficient data to calculate average income for agents with managerial responsibilities only. Bummer. Know any travel managers who want to contribute to great data and become immortalized with a HAR report? Sign up below:

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Just as different types of travel agent employees shouldered different work responsibilities, their income structures also varied.


Income Structures for Travel Agent Employees

This year, we asked travel agent employees about their compensation structures. In our survey, they had the option to select from annual salary, an hourly wage, commission, or a combination.

Here’s how they responded:

Travel Agent Employee Income

A majority of travel agent employees, 57%, earned a salary or hourly wage only. However, a fair share (32%) also earned commission on top of their base income. Fewer employees earned commission only (11%).

Employees who earned commission and salary banked 41% more than those who earned a wage or salary only.

Average income for all travel agent employees was $55,773. However, average income varied depending on how they were compensated. Below is a list of average incomes by income type, ranked from low to high:

  1. Salary/Hourly Only: $48,470
  2. Salary or Hourly AND Commission: $68,361
  3. Commission Only: Not Enough Data (help us get more data, and take our next survey!)

Employees who earned commission and salary banked 41% more than those who earned a wage or salary only. Wow. That's a lot. (Something to keep in mind if you're negotiating a contract!)


Travel Agent Employee Benefits

In June 2020, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that benefits comprised 30% of overall employee compensation.1 This is potentially one of the greatest perks of working as a travel agent employee as opposed to an independent contractor.

93% of travel agent employees received benefits and7% received no benefits.

But how did benefits shake out among travel agent employees?

The overwhelming majority of travel agent employees received at least some benefits: 93% received one or more benefit(s) and 7% received no benefits.

Travel Agent Employee Benefits

What benefits did employees receive? Below is a chart of benefits in by what percentage of employees received it (in descending order):

Travel Agent Employee Benefits 2

Paid vacation and holidays were the most common employee benefits among travel agents. With exception of a company car, parental was the least-offered benefit to travel agent employees.


Travel Agent Employees: Income & Hours Worked

In our survey, we gauge agents' reliance on income from selling travel. We look at it in two ways:

  1. We ask if selling travel is their primary source of income and
  2. We ask how many weekly hours they work to indicate if they sell full time (FT) or part time (PT)

This is how travel agent employees responded.

Is Selling Travel a Primary Source of Income for Travel aGent employees?

All (100%) of travel agent employees reported that selling travel was their primary source of income.

This is staggering when compared to hosted or independent travel agents, who were more like to sell travel for supplementary income: In comparison, only 74% of hosted advisors and 67% of independent advisors reported that selling travel was their primary income. (See all travel agent income survey results.)


Do Travel Agent Employees sell Travel FT or PT?

As with primary income, the overwhelming majority of travel agent employees sold travel full time (95%):

Travel Agent Employee  Hours

Earning an average of $56,560, FT travel agent employees earned slightly more (1%) than the overall average income ($55,773). This makes sense as the vast majority of employees said they were FT agents.

One of the major takeaways from the travel agent employee data is that their work habits do not mirror those of hosted independent agents.

We did not receive enough responses from PT travel agent employees to calculate an average income and compare to FT employees.

One of the major takeaways from the travel agent employee data is that their work habits do not mirror those of hosted independent agents: The vast majority, 95%, of travel agent employees worked full time. This is a departure from their hosted and independent peers (where 72% and 76% reported working FT, respectively).

Read income details for other travel agent categories in HAR's income report archive.


Travel Agent Employee Income Based on Years of Experience

The median experience of the entire segment of travel agent employees was 26 years. This is a significant amount of experience, especially when compared to other types of travel agents. (Hosted agents have 6 years median experience and independent agents have 15 years.)

We did not receive enough entries to reliably offer income averages by experience range. However, 75% of travel agent employees had 15+ years industry experience.

Travel agent employees with 15+ years experience earned 38% more than those with less experience ($43,336 compared to $59,919 respectively).

We broke down income by travel agent employees with 15+ experience and those with less which offers a look at how experience impacts income for this segment of travel agent.

Travel agent employees with 15+ years experience earned 38% more than those with less experience ($43,336 compared to $59,919 respectively).


Travel Agent Employee Niche

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 compared to previous surveys.

62% of travel agent employees reported that they were generalists, booking whatever a client wants. Here’s the breakdown:

Travel Agent Employee Niche

This was a major departure from hosted and independent peers, who were less likely to be generalists: Only 45% of hosted agents were generalists and 36% of independent agents were generalists.

Travel agent employee generalists earned $58,928 on average. However, we cannot compare it to niche categories since we didn’t receive sufficient data to compare.


What Niches did Travel Agent Employees Report?

Among those who had or were working toward a niche, these were the top three:

1. Corporate travel (28%)

2. Destination specialist (22%)

3. Luxury (22%)

It’s significant that corporate travel was the top-reported niche for travel agent employees. This is one area where employees differentiate themselves from hosted and independent agents. Corporate travel had lower than 1% response rate for both hosted and independent travel agents.


What Products Do Travel Agent Employees Sell?

With so few travel agent employees reporting a niche, looking at products sold helps develop a clearer picture of the market share among this travel agent segment.

Travel agent employees who sold cruises earned 8% more than FT hosted cruise agents.

Here’s a breakdown of what travel products employees sold:

Travel Agent Employee Products Sold

The top three products were:

  1. Ocean Cruises (25%)
  2. Airlines (25%)
  3. Tours & Packages (19%)

Like niche, this is another departure from hosted and independent peers. With more corporate travel agent employees, airlines registered as the top 3 products. However, only 1.6% of hosted agents and 3% of independent agents reported selling airlines.


How Did Products Sold Impact Travel Agent Employee Income?

We only had enough data from agents who primarily sold ocean cruises and air to calculate average income. Those who primarily sold ocean cruises earned an average of $65,962, and those who primarily sold airlines earned $58,109 on average.

While we can't find trends for travel agent employees' income according to niche, it's significant that cruise agent employees earned 18% more than the income average overall ($55,773). This is another departure from hosted and independent peers, where cruise agents typically earned less income than the overall baseline average. Travel agent employees who sold cruises earned 8% more than FT hosted cruise agents ($65,962 compared to $61,047 respectively).

Sell cruises and want an added edge? Check out HAR's Cruise Inspection Checklist!


Income and Gender for Travel Agent Employees

98% of travel agent employees identified as women. Wow! It's basically ladies night in this report!

Typically in our income reports we compare income among genders. However, for obvious reasons–only one travel agent employee was male–we didn't receive enough data to compare.

Find comprehensive information on travel agent demographics in our 2020 report.


Are Travel Agent Employees Certified?

The majority of travel agent employees had at least one certification:

Travel Agent Employee Certifications

As with every other type of travel agent (hosted, independently accredited), obtaining a certification had a correlation to higher income. Employees who had at least one certification earned 9% more than those who reported no certification ($56,802 compared to $52,275 respectively).

The top 3 certifications for travel employees were:

1. Destination Vendor Specialist (51%)

2. CTC (15%)

3. MCC (9%)

Read more about options for travel agent certification.


Job Satisfaction Among Travel Agent Employees

59% of travel agent employees felt fairly compensated. This falls between the satisfaction levels of hosted agents (where 66% felt fairly compensated) and independent agents (where only 48% felt fairly compensated).

Travel Agent Employee Compensation

Among the 41% who desired an increase in income, the majority (67%) felt they deserved a 11-25% pay increase.


challenges & REwards for Travel agent employees.

What were the biggest for travel agent employees? Below is a breakdown of satisfaction levels for travel agent employees:

Travel Agent Employee Job Satisfaction

“Low income” was the top challenge reported by travel agent employees, with a 39% response rate. Despite this, 80% of travel agent employees would choose their career again if they had the choice.

Beyond low income, “dealing with difficult clients,” was another primary challenge (23%). Here’s a complete breakdown of challenges reported:

Travel Agent Employee Challenges

But as the majority of travel agent employees were satisfied with their career, selling travel was not without its rewards.

The top rewards for travel agent employees were:

  1. Gratitude/ Relationship with clients (30%)
  2. Being great at what I do (23%)
  3. I love everything about my job! (20%)

Here’s a full picture of what travel agent employees reported were the primary rewards of a travel agent career:

Travel Agent Employee Rewarding


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 a thing of the past?

The majority of travel agent employees are ready to pack their bags and hightail it outta here! 77% of travel agent employees want to book a ticket to another country.

Here’s what the rest had to say:

Travel Agent Employee Travel Choice


K-REX Club for Travel Agent Employees!

Travel Agent Employees $100,000

You didn't think we'd forget our time-honored tradition of looking at K-Rex agents right? Of course not! We love dinosaurs too much for that.

11% of travel agent employees earned over 100K.

Travel agent employees showed up: 11% of travel agent employees earned over 100K. Well done. What’s their secret sauce? Here’s a few (data-drive) guesses:

  1. They're sooooooo experienced. The average (and median) experience of K Rex employees was 35 years. Dang!
  2. 60% of K-Rexers earned commission in addition to their salary or wage. (No surprise there.) 20% earned commission only.
  3. All the K-Rex agents with only front line responsibilities had 100+ clients. Wow! That's a lot!

Well done, travel agent employees!


Travel Agent Employee Key Takeaways

Since this is our first travel agent employee survey, we can't offer anything by way of comparison of trends over time. However, we can look at isolated trends for this year, and highlight where travel agent employees diverge from their hosted and independent peers.

First, here's a few key point for travel agent employees:

  1. The average full-time travel agent employee income was $56,560. This is a12% decrease compared to FT hosted agents' average income ($64,377), and a 6% decrease compared to FT independent agents' average income ($59,976).
  2. 93% of travel agent employees earned benefits.
  3. All (100%) of travel agent employees sold travel as a primary source of income, and 95% sold travel full time,


How Did travel agent employees diverge from their hosted and independent peers?

Travel agent employee trends departed from hosted/independent trends in several ways. Including:

  1. Employees were much more likely to be generalists (62% compared to 45% for hosted and 36% for independent)
  2. All (100%) of travel agent employees reported that selling travel was their primary source of income. In comparison, only 74% of hosted advisors and 67% of independent advisors reported the same.
  3. Travel agent employees who sold cruises earned 8% more than FT hosted cruise agents ($65,962 compared to $61,047 respectively).
  4. Travel agent employees reported at a higher rate to sell corporate travel: 28% of employees reported that corporate travel was their niche. This is much higher than their hosted and independent peers, where, in both categories, <1% reported selling corporate travel. With more corporate employees, airlines also registered in the top 3 products for employees (whereas only 1.6% of hosted agents and 3% of independent agents reported selling airlines).


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.

This data doesn’t just materialize in my brain. Far from it! Huge thanks to this year's data whisperer, Bridget Lee, who endured a barrage of Slack messages from me in the middle of the night. April Oliveira created all the snazzy images and infographics for all our survey reports this year. (Let’s face it, it’s the part that really gets your attention).

Steph Lee, HAR’s founder, is the brainchild of this whole survey project. Without Steph, you’d be by your lonesome without this leading industry data.

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


The Method to Our Madness

HAR’s income survey was conducted in July and August of 2020. This report includes travel agent employees who agreed to share their income. A total of 48 travel agent employees fit the criteria for this report.


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:

1. Respondents had to fit criteria to be included in this income report:

  1. They’re travel agent employees.
  2. They agreed to share their income information. Seems obvious, but we can’t report numbers if a respondent doesn’t share them with us :)
  3. Don't worry, we'll still have loads of helpful data on new agents, independent agents, travel agent demographics, and more! Check out HAR's entire income survey report archive!

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. Some outliers were removed. If you made $9 million in individual sales, we’re really happy for you! But extremely high outliers were removed to present a more accurate picture of what earnings to expect (and because best data practices require us to do so).

4. 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. Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics press release on Dec. 17th, 2020
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.