Free Agents

The number of unaffiliated travel agencies and travel advisors has been steadily decreasing, but they still exist thanks to both the entry of new businesses and a fiercely independent few who don’t see any reason to link up with a consortium, host or franchise.

Though their ranks appear to be dwindling and affiliation today is de rigueur, agencies that are not affiliated with a consortium, a franchise or a host agency still exist. And, due to several factors, especially specialization, there will probably always be some unaffiliated holdouts.

According to a recent Phocuswright report, 6% of respondents to a travel advisor survey reported that either they or their agency did not have an affiliation with a host agency, consortium or franchise. 

That survey garnered 1,551 responses, meaning about 93 respondents reported having no affiliation.

“There’s no question it surprised me,” admitted Phocuswright leisure travel analyst Mary Pat Sullivan.

She was not alone in that response. In fact, many industry executives expressed surprise that so many advisors reported being unaffiliated today, though none were surprised that at least some choose to remain unaffiliated.

“It does sound a little high, but they’re out there,” said Kathryn Mazza-Burney, Travelsavers’ executive vice president of sales. 

In recent years, the number of unaffiliated agencies has dropped. Phocuswright found that in 2007, 14% reported being unaffiliated, compared with 12% in 2011 and 6% in 2018.

Meanwhile, the number of advisors reporting affiliations appears to be on the rise. Six percent reported being affiliated with a host agency in 2007. That dropped slightly in 2011, to 5%, but jumped to 12% in 2018. 

In 2007, 67% reported being affiliated with a consortium. That grew to 77% in 2011 and 82% in 2018.

Franchisees have fluctuated. In 2007, 12% said they were affiliated with a franchise, a number that dropped to 9% in 2011 but increased to 11% in 2018.

Sullivan acknowledged that the number of advisors or agencies reporting affiliations with hosts and consortia could be slightly skewed based on interpretation: A respondent could have reported the consortium with which their host is affiliated. But responding “no affiliations” is fairly indisputable.

‘We do not feel that we need their services, and we are very protective of our clients’ discretion, privacy and trust.’
Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal
Fischer Travel Enterprises

Fischer Travel has established long-standing relationships with suppliers. Fischer-Rosenthal also argued that the agency’s clients aren’t looking for perks but for accommodations that fit their needs, and it is a priority for Fischer to control every booking aspect.

“I do not see a reason for us to affiliate with any companies,” she said. 

“At this time, there is nothing that is offered that we cannot obtain directly for our clients. Our resources and networking capabilities run deep. It is how Fischer Travel has thrived these past 50 years.” 

See the full article at Travel Weekly