Skift Take

This is good-ish news for travel agents, especially since the demographic they were most likely to lose because of their tech-savvy booking skills indicate they still see value in travel agents.

Expedia and Priceline may the leading booking sites in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean they’re powerful enough to completely silence the traditional brick-and-mortar travel agencies among all age groups.

A new MMGY Global study shows the percentage of affluent Americans who plan on booking trips through travel agents is up this year. In the next two years, 21% of Americans with incomes of $125,000 or more plan to use a travel agent, and 29% of those earning more than $250,000 will use one.

Last year, 17% Americans with incomes of $125,000 booked one or more trips with an agent, and 24% of those making $250,000 or more used an agent for booking, MMGY found.

In terms of regular booking practices, 55% of affluent Americans in both the $125,000 and $250,000 income brackets primarily book travel through a supplier’s website, while 28% use an OTA, 10% use an agent and 7% book by phone with a supplier.

Reasons that wealthy Americans said they choose to book through a supplier website versus an OTA include “better support if something goes wrong, particularly with a flight” and “more confidence that the reservation actually exists when booked with a supplier.”

But it’s not all about the rich when it comes to who’s using travel agents. Early this summer, the MMGY Global 2014 Portrait of Affluent Travelers study found 28% of millennials used travel agents between February 2013 and February 2014. Additionally, 21% of those aged 69 and older, 15% of Americans aged 36 to 49, and 13% of people aged 50 to 68 used agents during that period.

When asked if they plan on using an agent to book travel in the next two years, 30% of millennials also said yes, compared to the 27% of those aged 69 or older, 19% of those aged 36 to 49 and 16% of those aged 50 to 68. One reason 77% of millennials give for using an agent is “agents’ experience will book a better trip than one booked on their own.”

This is good news for travel agents, but online booking modes still remain the dominant options for millennials. The study found 47% of millennials used supplier websites and 41% used online travel agencies (OTAs) to book travel during the February 2013 to 2014 period.

Breakdown of Age Groups Using Different Booking Modes

Age Group Suppliers websites OTAs Travel agents, by phone Suppliers, by phone
18-35 41% 47% 8% 4%
36-49 46% 38% 9% 7%
50-68 50% 31% 10% 9%
68+ 55% 18% 13% 14%

Source: MMGY Global


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Tags: otas, travel agents

Photo credit: Travel agents are still valued by millennials, with 28% saying they used an agent to book travel over the past year. Platform London / Flickr

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