Travel Agent Income Report, 2018 [Free Infographic + More]

July 10, 2018

Why howdy. Hello there! It's that time of year! The results of Host Agency Reviews' 2018 Travel Agent Income Survey are in! 

We asked about much more than travel agent income alone. We asked questions about demographics, education, affiliations, job satisfaction and all the usual good stuff. 

In fact, we got soooo much data, that we're going to write a series on the results! You can find our first installment here, "Who Is the Hosted Agent in 2018?" 

But that's not why you originally visited us. Here's a sneak peek at the data goldmine you are about to explore! 

Did you think we'd make this infographic hang out all by its lonesome?! No way. It's an extrovert and wants to share all its data with all its income data buddies.

First Things First: What Travel Agents Took This Survey?

Well, it will come as no shock to you that majority of the travel agents we poll are independent, home based agents who are aligned with a host agency or franchise. We want to emphasize that this means they are independent contractors, which differs from the travel agent salaries you'd find if you were an employee at a travel agency.

Over 600 agents completed our survey this year. We searched for you high and low. We asked our friends and neighbors to steer you our way. Rigel, Tanner and Nova—our outreach coordinators—begged and pleaded.

Travel Agent Income Report 2018 Outreach Coordinators

Unsurprisingly, most of our respondents come from the many host agencies and franchises listed on our site . . . and for their support, we owe them many thanks.

  1. 97.3% are hosted 
  2. 96.3% of respondents are home based 
  3. Average years of experience: 6.2 years
  4. 46.9% (37.5% last year) reported that selling travel was their primary source of income.
  5. Ocean Cruises was the product most frequently sold 
  6. 79.2% of respondents identify as female.
  7. The average age range was 50-59 years old

Most of these results were similar to the 2017 travel agent income report. But one significant shift that we're pretty excited about is a 9.4% increase in the number of travel agents who reported that selling travel was their primary source of income!

Guess what?! There's a few other trends that we're pretty excited about too :) 

How We Crunched Our Numbers

Beholding the massive number of responses to our survey is really like playing on a data playground! We learned that data is as much art as it is science. Of course, we're not throwing around our numbers willy nilly like a finger painting, but we have a specific process for coming up with our income numbers.

Here's what you need to know about income data we're recording in this article:

1. Agents tallied have 3+ years of experience: We are pulling income averages only from travel agents who have 3+ years in the industry. Why? Well because we understand that it can take awhile for a travel agency to really take root—just like an independently owned business. We found that the income from new agents really pulled down the average income. 

We wanted to give a more accurate projected look at what income may look like when it becomes more sustainable. But don't be bummed out . . . We'll have an article on getting started coming your way soon, which profile and target the agents with fewer than 3 years of experience

2. Agents tallied are active agents.  We only took income averages from agents who reported making travel sales in 2017. If an agent reported no sales, we didn't include them in our income averages.

3. Total income is the sum of commissions, service fees and consultation fees. In order to get our income number, we calculated the sum of commissions, service fees and consultation fees. A few entries added "write-in" incomes which were also included in their income.

4. We tallied income before deductions. We recorded income before any deductions. Why did we report on income before tax deductions you ask? Well the reason for this is because agents are all over the map in terms of expenses. Some agents write off 100% of their income. Some agents write off nothing. 

5. We excluded a few data points with mathematical errors: While going through the data, we noticed some replies didn't add up, such as commissions and sales being identical or commissions being higher than sales. 

There were a lot of different ways we could have gone about the data, but this is the route we took! We felt it provided the best picture in terms of earnings potential for the travel agent industry. In fact, we felt so strongly about this, we're going back to the results of 2017 and republishing the number with our updated process. This way, we'll be able to track trends, comparing the numbers over time. Thanks for bearing with us. :) 

We've tallied up the data and crunched numbers. We think you might find the results surprising. 

The Moment You've Been Waiting For: Overall Travel Agent Income

2018 Average Travel Agent Income

We're excited to announce a pretty good bump in average travel agent income from 2017! 

Without further ado, here's your birds-eye view average travel agent income in 2018: $40,377

Like last year, to tally the average overall travel agent income, we included established travel agents who reported 3+ years of experience (because we know it takes a little time for a travel agency to spread their roots). Also same as last year, we included agents regardless of how many hours they worked, their niche, or whether or not they liked singing rocks more than ligers (which may have a serious influence on the numbers). 

Different from last year, we calculated more accurate income levels by tallying the sum total of income from commissions, service fees and consultation fees. 

The Coveted Six-Figure Travel Agent Income!

Did you break 100K? We were kind of curious about the number of travel agents that hit that milestone, and we were pleasantly surprised by the results.

Travel Agent Income over $100,000

In 2017, 11.2% of hosted agents reported earning $100,000 or more!

Not too shabby!!!! If you're wondering how agents get to the point where they're bringing in $100k+ a year, take a look at our marketing articles. Or if you've got time on your commute, listen to how experienced agents have found success in one of our Travel Agent Chatter (TAC) podcasts

A Breakdown of Travel Agent Income

The data brought good tidings in terms of travel agency growth. In 2018, 83% of agents reported an increase of sales from 2017.

This increase was across the board for commissions (84% increase), service fees (56.92% increase) and consultation fees (69.6%).

The growth reported marks a distinct jump from last year's 2017 report, where only 57.7% of agents reported an increase in sales. Once again, well done agents! 

Last year, a whopping 70.6% of agents reported that their entire income (100%) consisted of commissions. This year, a few more agents reported charging service fees, the number of agents who didn't charge service fees decreased 1% to 69.6%. Sure it may be a baby step, but we'll take it!  

We decided to take our geekery one step further by creating a segment of the 30.4% of agents who reported charging service fees. (Sorry, non-fee chargers, you'll have to take a knee for this one.) Among this segment, it will come as no surprise that commissions still comprise the majority of their income. In 2018, 96.2% of their income was earned from commissions, 2.8% from service fees and 0.5% from consultation fees. 

Interested in learning more about charging a service fee or consultation fee? Check out this great resource.

Time Investment in Correlation with Income

Travel agents are notoriously hard workers. But are you curious as to how many hours you rack up in comparison to your peers? Here's a peek:

Part Time: 49.4

  1. 5 hours/ week: 8.1%
  2. 11-20 hours/ week: 28.8%
  3. 21-30 hours/ week: 12.5%

Full Time: 50.6%

  1. 30-40 hours/ week: 24.3%
  2. 41-49 hours/ week: 11%
  3. 50-59 hours/ week: 9.5%
  4. 60+ hours/ week: 5.8%

How did hours worked correlate to travel agent income? In 2018, established travel agents earned on average $52,635 for FT work and $11,555 annually for PT work. 

There was a significant spread between the established travel agents (3+ years of experience) and new agents (less than 3 years experience). New FT travel agents earned $8,973 on average annually and new PT travel agents earned $3,637 annually. 

Unsurprisingly, established agents in general, reported at a higher rate that selling travel was their primary income. 59.1% of established travel agents considered selling travel their primary source of income, whereas only 29.5% of new agents reported the same.

The survey also recorded the average amount of time per booking. Newer and established travel agents both answered the question similarly, with the majority of agents spending 3-5 hours on average per booking. 

Travel Agent Income, Regionally 

Selling travel is unique in the sense that travel agents are not selling a product that's limited to their local or regional cost of living. Travel agents can live in a state with a lower cost of living, like Texas, and will still get the same commission from Disney as someone who is living is California. This is my long way of saying that where you live does not necessarily reflect earnings potential for travel agents.

That said, regionality of where an agent sells travel wouldn't necessarily have a direct impact on their earnings potential compared to the travel products they sell, the time they invest, or their previous experience selling travel. But since we like to crunch numbers so much, we gather that data anyway. 

2018 Travel Agent Income by Region

For 2018, the top three regions reporting the highest average incomes were:

  1. Heartland: $55,297
  2. Southwest: $52,240
  3. Canada*: $46,559

This is a departure from last year where the highest-earning regions were (starting with highest) Southwest, Midwest, and Heartland.

*We didn't have enough Canadian entries last year so we're super excited to see more of our friends to the north participating! ❤?

This Is Just the Beginning

I know, I know. We're leaving so soon. But you know what? There's more to come. We'll be administering more Travel Agent Income Report 2018 data results at a steady drip this coming month!

But none of this data would be available if it weren't for host agencies who helped encourage their ICs to participate! I sent encouraging emails to these hosts, and they really came through: Andavo Travel, Cruise Planners—American Express, KHM Travel Group, Nexion, OASIS Travel Network, Outside Agents, Travel Planners International, Travel Quest and Uniglobe Travel Center!!! 

What do you think of these results? Anything surprise you? 

PS: We (and by "we" I mean a random number generator) have drawn a winner for our $200 host/franchise credit. Big congratulations to Jen Dotzauer, Luxury Land and Cruise Specialist of Cruise Planners—thanks for filling out the survey!

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.