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   Issue 11/12, Winter 2007/Spring 2008

Travel Agents/Tour Operators

      Overview               Online Resources

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Travel accounts for a large percentage of ebusiness. According to PhoCusWright, "almost one out of four U.S. adults (23%) were 'online travelers' in 2006" at the same that "hotel usage among air travelers rose from 81% to 84%."1 In North America, Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotwire and Priceline are among the largest firms offering online travel and all continue to steal market share from traditional agencies. In Europe EasyGroup, Online Travel Corporation (a subsidiary of, eBookers, and are the biggest online travel sites.

On-line services may have different goals than airlines or even travel agents. For airline tickets, many services such as Expedia reserve seats in bulk at a wholesale price and resell at a higher price, though still cheaper than buying from the airline. However, the airlines may look to their online ticket operations purely as a way to save money. That same dynamic to some extent applies to hotel reservations as well. Online sites may book the airline, the hotel, and the car for one price taking advantage of bulk pricing, thus directly impacting traditional travel agents. Some travel agents have successfully made the transition by being very specialized or marketing themselves more as consultants. Carlson Wagonlit Travel has established a sophisticated system for business travelers by incorporating an Internet-based system as well as maintaining locations all over the world.

BERA - Business & Economics Research Advisor - A Quarterly Guide to Business & Economics Topics

Issue 11/12: Winter 2007/Spring 2008

Guide to the Travel & Tourism Industry

Table of Contents

General Travel & Tourism
Travel Agents/Tour Operators
Types of Tourism

See America Poster showing two cowboys on horseback by stream near desert rock formation, ca 1936-1939.
Image (above):
See America Poster, ca. 1936-1939.
Poster for the United States Travel Bureau promoting tourism
Work Projects Administration Poster Collection
Prints and Photographs Division
Reproduction Number: LC-USZC2-831

This is an industry covered by two specific SIC and NAICS Codes:

  • Travel Agencies SIC 4724 / NAICS 56151
    Establishments primarily engaged in furnishing travel information and acting as agents in arranging tours, transportation, rental of cars, and lodging for travelers. EXAMPLE: Tourist agencies for the arrangement of transportation, lodging, and Travel agencies.
  • Tour Operators SIC 4725 / NAICS 56152
    Establishments primarily engaged in arranging and assembling tours for sale through travel agents. Tour operators primarily engaged in selling their own tours directly to travelers are also included in this industry. EXAMPLES: Tour operation (travel) , Tours, except sight-seeing buses, boats, and airplanes , and Wholesale tour operator.

The US Economic Census of 2002 listed 21,679 Travel Agencies (NAICS 56151), employing 147,069, and 3,130 Tour Operators (NAICS 56152), employing 31,822.2 Compare these figures to those from the 1997 Economic Census which showed 29,332 Travel Agencies (SIC 4724), employing 183,178, and 3,501 Tour Operators (SIC 4725), employing 38,574.3

Selected Online Resources

      Associations               Trends


American Society of Travel Agents
There is a travel agent directory under the "For Travelers" link.

Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA)

In addition to statistics and other data on trends in the travel industry, the ABTA web site also includes links to Travel Agents' and Tour Operators' Benchmarking Surveys, a Pay and Benefits Benchmarking Survey, as well as a survey of Graduates in the Travel Industry who have undergraduate degrees in travel and tourism management and allied subjects.

Association of Canadian Travel Agents

Association of Retail Travel Agents

National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents

Travel Agents of New Zealand

Travel Industry Association

United Federation of Travel Agents' Associations



Publishes reports like US Online Travel: The Threat of Commoditization and articles like "Online Travelers Bargain-Hunt on the Web" (June 20, 2007). Also offers a free "eMarketer Daily Newsletter."

The PhoCusWright Consumer Travel Trends Survey, 10th ed. PhoCusWright.

PhoCusWright has been conducting this survey since 1998 among U.S. online travelers to ascertain data on travel shopping and purchase behavior. The company also looks at travel buying behavior of frequent business travelers and the air-only online traveler. Scroll down to see the Report Highlights, the Table of Contents, and a description of the survey methodology, which are available without charge. The full survey, however, is available only by purchase from the publisher. Note: The survey is not available at the Library of Congress.

FYI. PhoCusWright.

Receive information covering corporate and leisure travel, tourism and hospitality marketplace via RSS feed. Limited free information is available from this source, but full reports are generally only available by purchase.

 1. "Executive Summary," The PhoCusWright Consumer Travel Trends Survey. 9th ed, 2007. PhoCusWright.

 2. "Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services," EC02-56I-05. U.S. Economic Census. 2002.     [PDF Format: 391 KB / 30 p.]

 3. U.S. Economic Census. 1997.

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   Issue 11/12, Winter 2007/Spring 2008
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   May 21, 2008
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