Agents on the Web

 Even as the Internet continues to evolve, the American Society of Travel Agent’s (ASTA) 2008 Technology and Web Usage Report shows that, while agents are increasingly using Web marketing, there is still much more agents could be utilizing.


Text messaging is a new way to market to people ages 18-24. // (c) Stefan Klein
Text messaging is a new way to market to people ages 18-24.

Even as the Internet continues to evolve, the American Society of Travel Agent’s (ASTA) 2008 Technology and Web Usage Report shows that, while agents are increasingly using Web marketing, there is still much more agents could be utilizing.

The ASTA study is the only one of its kind that specifically looks at Internet usage, Web 2.0 marketing and Web site development from an agency point of view.

"Agents are very comfortable using the Internet for booking when they feel they can get the best product, but even though travel agents have used Webinars and blogs more than any other Web 2.0 marketing technique, they are eager to learn more and take advantage of similar tools to reach an increasingly savvy traveler," said ASTA president and CEO Chris Russo.

The findings come even as Scarborough Research recently released a study that found younger consumers are increasingly using text messaging as a communications and purchasing tool — and represent a potentially lucrative market to tap.

According to Scarborough Research, text messagers are 49 percent more likely than all mobile phone subscribers to be between the ages of 18 and 24, and 20 percent of texters spend more than $1,000 online annually, versus 17 percent of all mobile phone users.

"Text messaging could be ... disproportionately appealing to marketers because it delivers a young, multicultural audience ... [but] texts can provide a very locally targeted vehicle for marketers wanting to reach people in the right place at the right time ..." said Gary Meo, senior vice president of digital media services at Scarborough Research.

Among the ASTA survey findings:

• 76.9 percent of respondents indicated that they have had a Web site up, a nearly steady statistic over the past three years.

• Podcasts, Webinars, Webcasts or streaming videos seem to be areas that most respondents are looking to upgrade, purchase or develop.

• 94 percent of ASTA agencies have booked directly on a supplier’s Web site without using their GDS or calling the supplier, up dramatically from just 17.7 percent in 1999.

• Airline bookings are the most likely to be booked online, reflecting the commoditization of airline tickets.

• Agents continue to feel they need more direct contact to customize travel products such as cruises and tours.

• Most agencies use their Web sites to provide an e-mail link to their agency (89.1 percent) or to promote areas of specialty (81.7 percent).

• Agents that offered online booking tools said an average of 9.1 percent of their revenue is directly booked on their Web site.

The ASTA Research Family is comprised of a representative sample of ASTA member travel agency owners and managers. The report indicates a 95 percent confidence with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.

The full, 16-page report is available online at www.asta.org.

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