More Canadians are moving their travel agencies into their homes, or starting their business there, leading to a greater work/life balance, and helping them earn an income that satisfies them, a new study says.
Nearly 90 percent of home-based agents believe they have a better work/life balance than when they worked in an agency, up five percentage points from last year, according to a recent nationwide survey of home-based agents funded by host agency The Travel Agent Next Door and conducted by an independent research company.
Another 92 percent of agents who moved over to become home-based agents said they were happier than when they worked in an agency.
When asked to rate their current compensation package with their host agency, 73.7 percent said they were “mostly to 100 percent satisfied,” and 25.4 percent said they were 100 percent satisfied with their compensation.
“If you were to look back 10 years ago, one or two companies were offering the opportunity for independent home-based agents,” said Flemming Friisdahl, president of The Travel Agent Next Door. “It was much more prevalent in the United States. We’re starting to catch up in Canada.”
Higher commissions and earnings
Some 72.6 percent of the survey’s respondents said they earn a greater share of commission as a home-based agent compared to working in a travel agency; and about 61 percent of agents reported that they earn 10-30 percent more than when they worked at a brick-and-mortar location. Another 23.5 percent said they are earning 30 percent or more than in the past.
The survey showed that 85 percent of home-based agents have the opportunity to earn 50 percent or more of the available commission, and 47 percent said they can earn 75 percent or more of the available commission.
In other responses, 79 percent of agents said their website expenses were rolled up into their monthly fee; while 82 percent of agents said their marketing also was paid through their host agency monthly fee. Slightly more than 45 percent of hosted agents said they are ‘very to extremely happy' with their host agency; however, 12 percent said they were ‘unhappy to very unhappy.’
Home-based, independent agents on the rise
Across the country in Canada, an estimated 35 percent of travel agents are now independent, home-based contractors, up from less than 25 percent 10 years ago, experts estimate.
While still in the minority, the number of home-based independent agents is rising in Canada, as it has in the U.S. and the U.K. over the last 10-15 years. Today, The Travel Agent Next Door has 330 primary agents and 200 associates, Friisdahl said.
Not only is the home where more agents are moving their businesses, but many are launching their travel careers there, as well. The survey found that 52 percent of respondents said they started their career working from home.
This is important to the trade in Canada, Friisdahl said, because “one of the biggest things that is a concern for me, is finding people who want to become travel agents.” The flexibility of earning an income from home can help attract more agents.
Where that new cohort of candidates will come from is still uncertain. Some 87 percent of agents who responded to the survey said they are older than 40 years, while 28.5 percent said they are older than 60.
“I don’t think we’re going to convert people in their 20s to being agents,” Friisdahl said. “The colleges and institutions in Canada have people in travel school. But when they graduate, they are going to the airlines, hotels, tour operators. Where I see the big surge for home-based agents is that 35-40-year-old group. They will have a good 20-year career in travel.”
“Personally, I believe that travel agents have a prosperous future ahead of them. The number of people coming into this industry, with knowing how our sales are doing, travel agents have a long, long future ahead of them,” said Friisdahl.
The 2nd annual independent nationwide survey of Canadian hosted travel agents was conducted in January 2018 and reached more than 500 respondents.