Touring and adventure clients spend more with agents than direct channels

Clients booking touring and adventure holidays spend more with agents than they do through direct channels, new research shows.

Claire Brighton, account director of the Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers, revealed the research at the Atas annual conference, held at the British Motor Museum near Warwick (November 1-2).

She said: “The average tour revenue booked via an agent is substantially higher [than direct].

“This could be because customers are using you for the more complex itineraries, longer duration trips…or it could be because you are upselling.”

Carried out with Marketing Radar, the study was carried out among Atas members for 2022 sales up to September.

It showed the average tour revenue per booking in 2022 was £2,679 for direct sales and £4,052 for agent bookings – a difference of £1,373.

The difference in 2023 is even bigger, with direct sales being £3,117 on average, and agency bookings topping £5,444 – a “whopping” £2,327 difference, said Brighton.

She said a “conservative” commission rate of 13% on that average booking of £5,444 would earn agents more than £700.

“That’s pretty good for one booking, isn’t it?” she commented.

The research also showed the sector is “back with a bang” this year, with members operating more than 25,000 tours and expedition cruises so far in 2022 – the same as the number of cruises that departed in the whole of 2019.

Bookings and confidence began to return in March-April and agency sales surpassed 2019 levels from May onwards.

The top destination is Europe – up from 51% in 2019 to 60% in 2022 – because of border restrictions and testing.

The next trending region was south and central America, followed by Asia Pacific – which is continuing to recover into 2023 as restrictions ease.

The percentage of clients booking north America in 2022 is the same as in 2019 but forward bookings have almost doubled already for 2023.

Touring and adventure departures are strongest in the shoulder seasons, as clients look to travel outside the peak months.

Furthermore, 76% of travellers are aged over 50, so they are less affected than younger clients by the cost of living concerns.

“About 10% of this demographic want adventure holidays, and 9% want activity holidays,” added Brighton.

About 20% of customers are under 40, offering agents a “really big opportunity” as many in the youth travel sector want to use agencies more than before the pandemic, she commented.