Travel Agent Income Report, 2019 [+Infographic]

September 11, 2019

It's that time of year again — time for the results of HAR's travel agent income report! The HAR team has been crunching data, making infographics, and generally swimming in numbers the past two weeks. And we've loved every bit of it.

The hosted segment of the industry is widely recognized as a fast-growing channel, in both sales and numbers. Despite being the new darlings of the industry, it's incredibly hard to find data on the hosted channel. Our annual travel agent income report aims to shed light on this notoriously hard to find group of agents.

So whether you're a hosted agent looking to do some personal benchmarking, a new advisor creating future income projections, or a supplier wanting hard data on hosted agents, we've got a little something for everyone! Enjoy.


Here's a sneak preview of 2019 income trends among hosted agents:

  1. Average income for established agents increased 10% from previous year
  2. 74% of agents felt fairly compensated
  3. 25% of hosted agents reported having ICs (up from 14% last year)
  4. 60% reported that selling travel was their primary source of income
  5. 84% of agents reported their income increased from the previous year

This list is just a brief shimmer of all the data we gathered. For example, we also hold the secret to the most popular travel agent theme song in 2019, and other "nitty gritty" details such as average travel agent income based on experience, time commitment and region. Read on, because our data will leave you spellbound.


A Snapshot of Hosted Travel Agent Income

You are about to dive into a sea of data. But don't worry, we won't send you in without an oxygen source. These results profile hosted agents with 3+ year experience. Below, our infographic gives a visual snapshot of the fathoms of data we're about to explore:


If you're looking for more information on the methodology behind the survey, read this. If you're looking more data on demographics and income of newer agents, hold tight because those articles are coming soon.

Don't want to miss the next installment of our report? Sign up for our newsletter.



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

Okay, so you already know this because you looked at the infographic. (Way to put a spoiler in the beginning of the article, Mary!) The average income stayed steady in comparison to last year. In 2019, the average income among all hosted agents was $33,732. Among the segment this article focuses on, established hosted agents1 , the average travel agent income was $44,312.

This is a pretty big deal. Why? The earnings among established agents increased 10% from last year! Phew that's a lot. Joy! Not only that, but established agents who reported selling travel full time earned 39% more ($61,427) than the overall average.


Average Travel Agent Income 2019

What is income for new agents? Where does income come from? What's their experience level? How does income break down regionally? We have more answers! Let's take a deeper dive.


Travel Agent Income Based on Years of Experience

You'll probably be happy to know that—save one unusual exception2—the longer you work in the industry, the more income you're likely to earn. Here's the deets:



2019 Travel Agent Income by Years of Experience

Let's discuss, shall we?



Average travel agent Income for New Agents

We're not ignoring you, new agents. In fact, we're so curious about the new agent segment that we'll be dedicating an entire article on you soon! But here's a little teaser:

In 2019, agents with one year under their belt reported earning an average of $3,250, whereas agents with two years experience earned an average of $12,492. If it's slightly painful for you to read this, just remember that travel agent income increases significantly as you gain experience. (See above!)

Newer agents were 23% less likely to report that selling travel was their primary source of income than experienced agents.

Newer agents were 23% less likely to report that selling travel was their primary source of income than experienced agents. While we don't have hard data on why selling travel is less likely to be a primary income stream for new agents, our anecdotal data suggests that new agents may be transitioning from a new career and/or working multiple jobs simultaneously until their travel agent income becomes more stable.3

Want to hear more on the new agent segment? Make sure to sign up for our newsletter because we're gong to highlight more about these newbies in an upcoming article! Now back to our regular programming.

Average travel agent Income for Experienced Agents

With an average of $44,312, established agents earn 31% more than the average travel agent income at large (new and experienced agents combined).

If you're confused as to why agents with 9-11 year experience earn a lower average, you are not alone. I'm not going to lie. We don't have a clear idea why the average travel agent income decreases for this sector. One possible explanation from is that there was a concentrated number of high-income earners with 6-8 years experience that inflated the average for that category. (Do you have any other hypotheses, hit me up!)

Agents with 6-8 years experience earned 5 times what agents with 1-2 years experience made.

The grand takeaway is that agents who stick with running their agency will (typically) earn more as they gain more experience. Sometimes it's a lot more. Agents with 6-8 years experience earned 5 times what agents with 1-2 years experience made.


More Hosted Travel Agents Are Selling Travel Full Time

A greater number of agents reported selling travel full time: 61% of hosted agents reported selling full time in 2019 compared to only 51% in 2018 and 47% in 2017. (A 10% increase from last year and 14% from the year prior.)

This trend aligns with 60% of hosted agents reporting that selling travel is their primary income source, a 13% increase from last year's report, and a 23% increase from 2017.

These trends reflect 2018's robust travel economy, echoing the sentiment that becoming an independent travel advisor is a viable career opportunity.

Here is time investment, broken down:


Time Investment in Correlation with Travel Agent Income

Travel agents who worked full-time earned a significantly higher income: Agents who worked 30+ hours/wk reported earning $61,427 annually. Part-time agents reported earning a fraction of this amount, $17,185—less than a third of what their full time counterparts earned.


2019 Travel Agent Income Report - Full-time vs. Part-time

As expected, the more hours you work, the money you earn. We also learned that workaholics are rewarded with higher pay: Experienced, hosted agents who worked 60+ hours a week earned $97,571 on average, 52% more than those who worked 50-59 hours per week. But I'm going to go ahead and be a cheerleader for work/life balance, and say I don't recommend working that much (unless the majority of your 60+ weekly hours are spent on amazing FAMs . . . #squadgoals).


Travel Agent Income Breakdown

We combined four income streams to tally overall income. Here's our secret sauce:

Overall Travel Agent Income = Commissions + Service Fees + Consultation Fees + Other Industry Related Income (e.g. coaching or speaking).

The percentage of income derived from each revenue source was similar to previous years, with commissions comprising the lion's share of overall income. Here's the average income from these four revenue streams:

  1. Commissions, $41,417
  2. Service Fees, $5,863 (among the 33% agents who reported charging service fees)
  3. Consultation Fees, $2,919 (among the 14% agents who reported charging consultation fees)
  4. "Other" industry-related income (such as coaching or speaking), $5,582 (among 1% agents who reported charging "other" fees")


2019 Travel Agent Income Sources Breakdown

Fees are a whole different beast when it comes to data. If you're jonesing for more in-depth fee data, hold tight—our annual Travel Agent Fee Report will come out early 2020. (You can feast your eyes on last year's Travel Agent Fee Report to help tide you over.)



income from wEbsite booking engines

HAR also asked respondents about income from online booking engines in our survey. Those who reported having an online booking engine were given the opportunity to write-in their annual income from this particular revenue stream. This income subset was included under the umbrella of "commissions."

Average commissions derived from direct online bookings on an agent's website was $596. The takeaway? Online booking engines comprise a nominal portion of income overall.

You can read more detailed data about the volume of direct online bookings in our article, Who Is the Hosted Agent, 2019. (Coming sooooooo soon and we're dang excited about it!)


Travel Agent Income, by Region

One of the beautiful things of working as hosted travel agent? The cost of living of an agent's locale isn't reflective of their earning potential. While commissions are influenced by a whole lot of different factors, where a hosted travel agent lives isn't one of them.

Commissions, which comprise the majority of agents' income, aren't dependent on an agent's local economy.4 An agent who lives in 90210 will earn the same commission from Disney as an agent who lives in 55803. (Um, everyone knows that's in Northern Minnesota, right?)

It's possible that because of this, there are no discernible relationships between region and income over the years. But we have data on it anyway! In 2019 the top-earning income averages came from:

  1. Heartland, $73,074
  2. Appalachia, $64,310
  3. New England, $57,875

While the Heartland topped the list of regional earnings for the second year, Appalachia and the New England are new to the top 3 this year! Here's a breakdown of the other regions:



Average 2019 Travel Agent Income by Region




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

Last year, we began the tradition at looking at what percentage of agents take home $100,000+ in income. This year, we decided to name this particular segment of advisors: The K-Rex Advisors.

This year, 10% reported their travel income was $100,000 or more. This is slightly lower than last year's 11%, but the K-Rex crew is far from going extinct!

Travel Agents Earning Over $100,000 Income

WOOT! *High Five!* We're so happy 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 some of common denominators among K-Rex Advisors? Factors beyond the obvious like working more hours? Here's a few things these high earning agents had in common in 2019:

  1. 65% spend 0-2 hours per booking (they're Speedy McSpeedertons when it comes to booking)
  2. 79% have 150+ clients (phew! That's a lot!)
  3. 45% belong to one or more association (they're engaged!)
  4. 63% have one or more certification (they're travel-schooled)
  5. 45% have ICs and 20% have employees

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

Travel Agents Love John Denver. (Who Knew?!)

Perhaps the most anticipated data of all, is the answer to this question: Which song are travel agents most likely to select as their theme song for flight departures?

John Denver's Leaving on a Jet Plane took the cake (67% of the cake, to be precise):


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 demographic data, a profile of agents new to the industry, and a look at trends among hosted agents who have ICs and/or employees. So keep your ear on the rails for more data to come!


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 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: Cruise Planners—American Express, Dugan's Travel, KHM Travel Group, Nexion, Outside Agents, Travel Planners International, Travel Quest and our industry partners, Travel Research Online, Destination Weddings University, and Travel Weekly. (Want to help us out with upcoming surveys? Drop us a line: hello [at] hostagencyreviews.com)


Past Income Survey Results & Data

Wow. Are you having an information hangover after this huge data party? No? You want more?! You animal, you. Take a look at income survey results from our previous years!

  1. "Travel Agent Income Report, 2018 [Free Infographic+ More]
  2. "Which Travel Agent Specialties Generate the Most Income? (2018)"
  3. "Travel Agency Startup Costs and Earnings: What to Expect"
  4. "Who is the Hosted Agent in 2018?"


The Method to Our Madness

The travel agents we polled were primarily hosted agents. If this is old news to you, read on. If this is unfamiliar info, 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.

Let's dive into the geeky nuts-and-bolts stuff about how we arrived at such a fabulous frenzy of travel agent data.

Anything new about your survey this year?

Honestly, not that much! But we did make two tweaks when asking about fees. 1.) We included an option for agents to write in "other" industry-related income. 2.) We provided more clarity between service fees and consultation fees (which may have had an impact on how agents reported their income, so read on!)

DATA DETAILS

Dr. Maga Gei is back again to help crunch our survey 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. For income, agents tallied are hosted and 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, which can be a year or more in the future.

Don't worry, we'll still have loads of helpful data coming out on new agents in an upcoming article.

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

3. Total income is the sum of commissions, service fees, consultation fees and related income: Some examples of related income: coaching, consulting or speaking. 

4. We tallied income 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. 

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. If the math was off, the data got the axe.

6. We didn't collect income data from agents with less than one year experience: For agents with only a few months under their belt, we only collected their demographic data.

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. with 3+ years experience
  2. Average income for agents with 9-11 years experience dips below that of agents with 6-8 years experience
  3. anecdotal data comes primarily from extensive communication with new travel agents via HAR's 7DS Groups and email support
  4. This may not be the case for employed travel agents, whose wages and salaries would be subject to local cost of living. Only hosted agents are included in the results of this 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.