A recent story on a 2nd-annual survey of home-based agents prompted comments and questions from readers, so Open Jaw sat down with The Travel Agent Next Door founder Flemming Friisdahl to delve a little deeper.
TTAND sponsored the survey which was sent to home-based agents working for a wide range of hosts across the country. More than 500 responses were received.
“We outsourced a company to do the survey,” Friisdahl said. “It wasn’t about us or used as a recruitment tool. We wanted to know what agents across Canada are looking for, and how those who have shifted to home-based feel about the change. We found the results to be very interesting.”
Friisdahl says key takeaways from the study are that 52% or respondents have only ever worked as home-based agents. Of the remaining 48% who shifted from bricks-and-mortar to home-based, 92% reported they are now happier, and 90% said they have a better work/life balance. That’s up 5% from last year’s results.
Another key finding has to do with income. Friisdahl says 84% of those surveyed say they are making more money now than they did as agency employees – 61% report making 10-30% more, while 23% say their income has risen by over 40%.
The TTAND founder says home-based agents benefit from tax deductions on their home workspace, property taxes, utilities, phone and internet and travel. He says they also earn higher commission levels because they are measured by total sales of the host, rather than as an individual agency.
With higher commission levels, Friisdahl says home-based agents can make more money while selling less. And he maintains that a good host agency can reduce many of the administrative, regulatory and marketing tasks that take agents away from their prime objective of serving clients.
One reader of the previous story wanted to know how many home-based agents consider themselves to be “full-time,” and how many hours they actually spend working as travel consultants.
While the question was not asked specifically in the survey, Friisdahl says his “personal feeling,” based on interactions with TTAND’s 320 primary agents, is that the majority work 25-40 hours per week. “Some work much more, some work less, but many tell us they are making more money than when they worked 40-60 hours per week in a storefront,” Friisdahl says.
They’re also not tied to retail hours, so they can work when they want, Friisdahl added, suggesting that as a key factor in the high happiness scores.
At least eight storefront owners have closed their locations since joining TTAND, Friisdahl says. “The most frequent question I hear from that segment is ‘Why didn’t I do this before?’ Their costs are lower and many of the things that used to occupy their time are now handled by the host. Now they have time to sell travel and to travel themselves so they have more to offer their clients from firsthand experience.”
Are host agencies satisfying the needs of home-based agents? That was one of the areas explored in the study, and the results are mixed. Some 45% reported that they are “extremely happy” with their host agency, while 15% reported being “extremely unhappy.” The other 40% are somewhere in the middle.
Friisdahl says the growing move to a home-based industry is helping to address a major problem in retail travel – an aging work force. According to federal government statistics, 65-70% of active travel agents in Canada are aged 55 and up. In the home-based agent survey, while 87% of respondents were 40 and over, just 28% were 60 or more.
“The average age in our new agent program is 45 and 95% of those are in their second or third careers. So, I’d say that the home-based model is bringing new people into the industry. That’s good news because if we don’t, there won’t be many agents in 10-15 years.”
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.