|NEW YORK-Dec. 15, 1997- Half of leisure travelers say they are willing
to pay a fee for a travel agent's assistance in planning a trip to a resort
destination, finds a survey released today. A majority (52%) say they will
pay a travel agency for helping them plan a cruise.
The most important service that travel agencies provide, according to the leisure travelers polled, is "getting the lowest ticket prices" -- which rates 8.8 on a 10-point scale, the highest among the services measured. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents indicate that their travel agency currently does get them the best deal on lowest ticket prices.
Furthermore, while more than two-thirds (68%) of leisure travelers are aware of airlines cutting commissions paid to the travel agency market, only 6% reported that their agency charges a new service fee as a result of the airline commission cuts.
Findings are from "Leisure Travelers Use and Perception of Travel Agents," a new survey commissioned by Tour Travel News/TTG North America magazine and co-sponsored by Hyatt Resorts. The research, which included 400 telephone interviews of leisure travelers, was conducted by Plog Research, Inc., Reseda, CA. Most leisure travelers (92%) participating in this research study have taken at least one trip by air in the past three years and 74 percent of the time they use the services of a travel agent.
Other travel agency services ranking high with consumers surveyed include the representation of all travel suppliers equally -- i.e. airlines, cruise lines, hotel chains, etc. -- ranking 7.8 on a 10-point scale. And, 71% say their agency provides this service.
"The travel agent is an integral partner in the travel community for both the consumer and the supplier," says Victor Lopez, head of Hyatt Resorts, a sponsor of the survey. "We attribute about 60% of our resort business to the efforts of travel agents," he continues, "and Hyatt supports them as a valued and informed source for all concerned."
Overall, leisure travelers are highly satisfied with their current travel agent (averages 8.5 on a 10-point scale), and report using the same individual travel agent for an average of six years, indicating a high degree of client loyalty. While travel agents are the most frequently cited information source (65%) used by leisure travelers surveyed, friends and relatives (57%) were cited as the second most popular source in information gathering, airline 800 numbers came in at 45%, and airline schedules and cruise brochures were reported as the least popular sources (29% and 28% respectively).
"As travel agents are the primary information source for consumers, Hyatt constantly provides them with the latest news about our resorts," says Victor Lopez, head of Hyatt Resorts. "We also encourage agents to visit our properties regularly, so they can share their first-hand experiences of our facilities and services."
The surveyed travelers report taking an average of 5.1 leisure trips requiring an overnight stay within the past year, with the last trip costing an average of $2,700. When asked to consider what they would pay as a service fee for a trip costing this same amount, the findings from this study indicate the following:
"We participated in this survey in an effort to clarify some of the issues which affect travel agents today," Lopez emphasizes, "to help identify the crucial areas in which they provide an indispensable service, and explore ways to make those areas central to a thriving business. Our wish is that the key findings will help agents decide what price their services are worth, since consumers have clearly indicated they are willing to pay for value."
"This research confirms that consumer loyalty to travel agents is high, and these consumers are willing to pay a fee for an agent's services," says Dan Dignam, publisher, Tour Travel News/TTG North America. "For agents to develop a service fee system with little or no practical guidance would be very difficult. This research provides that guidance."
The survey "Leisure Travelers Use and Perception of Travel Agents" was conducted by Plog Research, Inc., a full-service research firm specializing in quantitative data tabulation techniques and statistical analysis for the travel industry. The survey commenced on October 29, 1997 and was completed on November 4, 1997. Respondent profile: 63% female/37% male; 76% married; average age 52 years; average household income $93,440; with demographic data derived from Travel-Edge, Plog Research's traveler database.
There are 176 Hyatt hotels and resorts around the world. Hyatt Hotels Corporation operates 105 hotels and resorts in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. Hyatt International, through its subsidiaries, operates 71 hotels and resorts in 34 countries. In the U.S., Hyatt Worldwide Reservations for individuals and groups can be reached at 800-233-1234. For resort specific reservations call 800-55-HYATT. Outside the U.S., contact the local Hyatt sales office or representative. For more information about Hyatt hotels and resorts, consult Hyatt through the Internet.
Emily Kanders/Nancy Thorpe, 212/255-7403