The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) announced the results of the newest Technology and Marketing Survey Report that reveals the importance of the Internet to travel agencies in their everyday business. The report covers topics such as Internet usage for research and booking, e-mail and Web site usage. Survey results can be purchased for $25 for ASTA agent members by visiting http://www.astanet.com/about/research.asp. The cost is $250 for Allied members and $350 for non-members.
“It is a common misconception that travel agents don’t use the Internet to book travel. To the contrary, agents rely heavily on the Internet to correspond with their clients and to obtain information that enhances their ability to help consumers make educated travel choices,” said Kathryn W. Sudeikis, CTC, ASTA president and CEO. “Technology has been the driving force behind the travel industry over the past couple of decades and agents have taken great advantage of the benefits, as indicated in the most recent Technology and Marketing Survey Report.” In fact, 100 percent of agencies surveyed have Internet access at their offices. Owners and managers report they spend an average of 17.4 hours on the Internet each week, and frontline agents spend an estimated 16.4 hours a week on the Internet.
Gathering information increasingly involves the use of the Internet. Virtually all agents have conducted online research. Most frequently researched types of information include: destinations, maps, weather and directions and information on travel suppliers. More than three out of four agents also use the Web to compare Web-only fares to the prices found in their GDSs.
Nearly 83 percent of ASTA agencies report they have booked directly on suppliers’ Web sites without using their GDS or calling the supplier in question. The percentage of online bookings compared to overall agency bookings remains low, but is increasing. On average, ASTA agencies book 20.7 percent of total bookings through Web sites, and tour packages continue to be the number one product booked online, followed by airline tickets and hotel reservations.
ASTA research determined that consumers find travel agents’ experience, human interaction and convenience important reasons for using a travel agent. Flexibility, greater control and better deals are mentioned as advantages of booking online. It appears that combining personalized service and flexibility through agency Web sites and e-mail communications will be the key to future success.
The report goes on to show agency patterns in Web site practices, e-mail correspondence, GDS usage, and segment bookings. To purchase a comprehensive Technology and Marketing Survey Report, go to http://www.astanet.com/about/research.asp.
The 2004 Automation report revealed similar results, with 99.3 percent of agents reporting having Internet access at their agency. This represents a 413 percent increase over a nine year period. Survey respondents said the Internet provided a cost-effective, efficient way to sell relatively straightforward travel products such as point-to-point flights.
The mission of the American Society of Travel Agents and its affiliated organizations is to enhance the professionalism and profitability of members worldwide through effective representation in industry and government affairs, education and training, and by identifying and meeting the needs of the traveling public. The Society is the world’s largest and most influential travel trade association with over 20,000 members in 140 countries.