Research shows importance of agency service

03 April, 2014

Newly released research from the World Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation has highlighted the importance of agents within the youth and student travel market, with over half of all bookings coming through agents among surveyed providers.

Business meetings at the recent WETM-IAC conference in London, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year

The research, Youth and Student Travel Market Industry Review #4 – Marketing, is the fourth statistical release from a survey completed by 769 youth travel organisations worldwide in 2012, and reports on the language travel, higher education, exchange/work experience, volunteer travel and backpacking/adventure travel sectors. The study found that the surveyed providers were represented by an average of 101 agencies, while the agents questioned worked with an average of 57 providers.

In terms of first contact from clients, 37 per cent came via email, according to the surveyed agents, followed by 25 per cent by telephone, 17 per cent by walk-in, and 12 per cent by educational fairs. However, 63 per cent of bookings were received in person at an office, highlighting the continued importance of the personal interaction aspect of the agency business.

Agents said that 48 per cent of their clients needed help in selecting the best destination and programme when they approached them, 26 per cent had already decided on both a destination and programme, 18 per cent had decided on the destination only and nine per cent had decided on the programme only.

When agents were asked to state the most important factors that they base programme recommendations to clients on, location was the top score on 78 per cent, followed by cost of tuition (76 per cent), admission requirements and accreditation (both 63 per cent). Commission was relatively low down the list at 38 per cent.

Agencies reported an average of 17 hours spent with each student client to prepare for university enrolment which, the report highlighted, constitutes far more time with customers than is invested by other travel agencies or retailers in other industries.

The agencies participating in the survey were also asked how many b2b workshop events they attend per annum, with 47 per cent of agents attending 1-2 workshops per year, and 27 per cent attending 3-5; almost identical data was recorded for providers. “The need for providers and agencies to meet face-to-face is significant in the youth and student travel industry, reflecting the fact that it is a service industry working with uncommoditised products,” said the report.

The survey also revealed that agency business is fairly consistent in receiving bookings through the year. The second quarter was nominated as the busiest, accounting for 32 per cent of bookings, while the fourth quarter was the leanest with only 14 per cent. Per each booking, youth and study travel agents needed to service an average of 41 enquiries.

Commenting on the research, David Chapman, WYSE Travel Confederation Director General, said the organisation was committed to understanding the characteristics and motivations of young travellers. “Working with StudentMarketing once again, we have compiled the most detailed survey yet into marketing insights across five major sectors, from booking patterns and marketing tools to distribution opportunities and concerns for the industry’s future. This data will help our members to understand the industry as it stands today and adapt their strategies to support this rapidly growing market long term.”

The full report is available to WYSE Travel Confederation members for free and to non-members for a fee.

Meanwhile, WYSE Work and Volunteer Abroad and the International Au Pair Association, both sector associations of WYSE Travel Confederation, recently hosted the 10th annual Work Experience Travel Market and IAPA Annual Conference (WETM-IAC) in London, UK, with over 260 delegates in attendance, an increase of around 15 per cent over the previous year.

As well as scheduled business appointments, the three-day event included a regular update on movements within the USA J-1 visa programme from Michael McCarry, Executive Director of the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange, a discussion on a new UK Bill for gap year activities, joined by Kate Green MP, a gala dinner and presentation of the annual Au Pair of the Year award.

During the conference, Lisbon in Portugal was unveiled as the location for the 2015 WETM-IAC event.

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