Skift Take

The traditional travel agency business model is changing and these sectors are the last to have their distribution systems disrupted. Agencies will need to learn to adopt to coming changes to maintain their position in the respective markets.

The majority of American travel agents today cite ocean cruises, all-inclusive vacations, and luxury travel as the three most important niche markets for their businesses.

The findings, based on a survey of ASTA‘s member base, point out how concentrated travel agencies’ sales are in a few select niche markets. It also highlights what consumers are turning to agencies for today.

Seventy-three percent of respondents, including independent agents and retail agencies, reported these as the most important markets to their business. Corporate agencies are the only ones that deviated from the standard; they reported managed and unmanaged corporate travel are their top sells.

An ASTA spokesperson explains that the shift toward niche markets happened when most major airlines stopped paying commission to agents around 2002.

“Travel agents started moving toward becoming niche marketers a little over a decade ago, looking at things like cruises, group tours, luxury travel, adventure travel, etc., to become specialists in selling,” explains an ASTA spokesperson.

It’s possible that a similar change is starting to take place in the all-important cruise industry. It was recently reported that travel agents’ commission from non-luxury cruise ships are shrinking due to dropping fares and changing commission models. These changes could further push travel agencies into niche segments.

There do remain some travel agents without a particular focus. Less than a third, about 27 percent, identify as generalists focused on the leisure market.

Most Important Niche Markets All Respondents  Markets All Respondents
Cruise (Ocean) 32% Religios/Pilgrimage 3%
All-Inclusives/Resorts 26% Culinary 2%
Luxury 21% Gay & Lesbian (LBGT) 2%
Tours 14% Senior/Mature 2%
Group 13% Mettings/Planning Events 2%
Destination Specialist for One Country, Region or City 13% Student/Youth 2%
Cruise (River, Canal) 12% Asian-Americans 1%
Destination Weddings and Honeymoons 10% Hispanic-Americans 1%
Disney 10% Nature/National Parks 1%
Family/Multi-Generational 8% Volun-tourism 1%
Managed Corporate Travel 7% Green/Sustainable Travel 0.30%
Un-Managed Corporate Travel 6% Medical 0.30%
Cultural, Heritage & Educational 6% Spa/Fitness 0.30%
Adventure 5% African-Americans 0%
Safari 5% NA – Leisure Generalist Only 27.0%
Incentive Travel 3%

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Tags: travel agents

Photo credit: A photo taken during a storm around Disney's "Dream" cruise ship. Christian Lambert / Flickr

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