Lonely Planet Writer

Why millennials are using travel agents to make their holiday planning easier

2017’s most unusual travel trend is shaping up to be a retro throwback as the latest research suggests the use of travel agents is on the rise. The reason? It all boils down to time and money.

More millennials are turning to travel agents to make their vacation planning easier.
More millennials are turning to travel agents to make their vacation planning easier. Image by Tom Kelley Archive

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) found that 22% of Americans earning more than $50,000 a year opted to book their vacation through a travel agent in 2015, compared to 14% in 2014. Another study published in May found travel agents save customers $452 and four hours of planning per trip on average.

Even better news for travel agents; a lot of the new business appears to be coming from millennial travellers. Research from MMGY recently discovered that 34% of younger travellers had consulted an offline travel agent in the previous year, with 39% of respondents saying they planned to do so in the near future.

“Travel agent usage is at its highest level since we began commissioning independent consumer research three years ago”, said ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby. “At this point, consumers have tried it all. They’ve booked online, they’ve gone direct, and they’ve used a travel agent. Consumers told TNS Global that if you want a better travel experience, use an agent.”

Some travel agents have thrived by specialising in niche markets like LGBT travel.
Some travel agents have thrived by specialising in niche markets like LGBT travel. Image by nti St Clair

The use of travel agents to help plan and book your holiday has been on a general decline since 2000, with the rise of independent travel aided by the giants of internet booking. There are now 70,000 full-time travel agents operating in the United States, compared to 124,000 in 2000, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, many agents have thrived by specialising in a niche aspect of travel, like adventure, luxury or LGBT-friendly travel, and positioned themselves as experts in that field. With so much information now available online at travellers’ fingertips, some experts say that travel agents have become a crucial way of curating it.

Despite the continued popularity of online travel agencies – including a new entry into the field by accommodation giant Airbnb – it seems traditional agencies and the personal human touch are here to stay.