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ASTA releases landmark study on U.S. packaged travel industry

At a press event in New York, ASTA released its landmark study, the U.S. Packaged Travel Landscape 2006-2010. Commissioned by ASTA and conducted by PhoCusWright, one of the country’s leading travel industry research firms, it is the only industry study to examine the intricate relationship between tour operators and travel agents. Among the key findings was the fact that travel agents accounted for 69 percent of tour operator sales in 2008 and that more than a third of tour operators expect their distribution through travel agent to increase in the future.

"ASTA saw a void in the industry when it came to understanding this very lucrative market segment and sought to identify strategies that both tour operators and travel agents could use to mutually maximize their revenue," said ASTA President and Chair Chris Russo. "This is really the definitive study of the tour operator market and we are pleased to be able to offer this to our members. Be it escorted tours, packaged tours, FITs or group tours, it’s in here. We wanted this study to be the starting point for a better, mutual understanding of the tour operator and travel agency industries.

"The study provides groundbreaking insight into the size and scope of the U.S. tour industry, a major source of commissions for travel agents. Ultimately, it will help travel agents understand the demographics and dimension of the tour industry and help tour operators drive smarter marketing decisions and strategies," Russo added.

The study examined industry growth and segment strength and took a look at threats to the tour operator industry and strategic responses tour operators and travel agents can implement in response. Distribution patterns, including the role of consumer direct versus travel agents, were also studied. Among the study’s key findings are:

  • Approximately 700 companies accounted for $12.3 billion in gross travel sales in 2008.
  • Tour operator sales will decline in 2009, but expectation for modest growth in 2010 is strong.
  • Three general tour operator categories: Package/FIT Operators, Escorted Operators, and Groups Specialists. Package operators represent 68% of the market, escorted tour operators 24%, and group specialists 8%
  • Travel agents tend to work with larger tour operators who sell packages, escorted programs and FITs.
  • Clients coming via travel agents tend to be between the ages of 21 and 59. Clients coming through "consumer direct" tend to be 60+ years old or under 21.
  • Fifty-eight percent of respondents said travel agents are important to their business.

This study was funded through the ASTA Foundation, a charitable foundation that promotes education and research to benefit the travel industry. This study was based on a sample of ASTA tour operator members, USTOA and NTA members and was augmented by U.S. Census Bureau data.

Members of ASTA’s Tour Operator Program will receive a webinar presented by PhoCusWright as part of their membership;

PhoCusWright is the travel industry research authority on how travelers, suppliers and intermediaries connect. PhoCusWright fosters smart strategic planning and tactical decision-making and delivers qualitative and quantitative research on the evolving dynamics that influence travel, tourism and hospitality distribution.

The mission of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. ASTA seeks a retail travel marketplace that is profitable and growing and a rewarding field in which to work, invest and do business.

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