Phocuswright: Agents continue to hold an important place in the US travel ecosystem

The demise of the travel agent has been heralded for decades, but new research from Phocuswright shows agents are actually being courted, and the value of the travel agency segment is forecasted to grow.


  • The demise of the traditional travel agent has been heralded for decades, but such thoughts may be premature, new research has shown;
  • Phocuswright says it was among those that “assumed travel agency extinction,” but its latest research means it has been “proved wrong”;
  • Its findings show the US travel agency market is projected to reach USD127 billion by 2021, a 12.6% increase from 2017.

The travel research company explains it has been researching the US travel agency distribution landscape since 2006, and in its initial study, “we assumed travel agency extinction, and were proved wrong”.

Its most recent research shows the overall US travel agency market is projected to reach USD127 billion by 2021, which is a 12.6% increase from 2017’s value of of USD112.8 billion.

Drivers of that growth are air, cruise and specialised sales, Phocuswright says, and “customers are ready to pay someone to take care of their travel needs”, rather than losing hours trying to find the best deal, the company explained.

Phocuswright’s research shows both leisure and corporate agents are still the biggest consumers of travel products, and the “business going through agents is healthy and solid for the foreseeable future. It is quite possible that the travel ecosystem is finding a happy medium, with agents, OTAs and consumer direct all coexisting peacefully”, the company concluded.

CHART – Projections from Phocuswright’s research show travel agent share in distribution will only fall by 1% between 2017 an 2021 from 30% to 29%Source: Phocuswright US Travel Agency Distribution Landscape 2016-2021


The Phocuswright insight, ‘US Travel Agency Distribution Landscape 2016-2021’ describes the travel agency experience as: “From ‘Survivor’ to ‘The Bachelorette'”. It says that while the rise of the internet, mobile platforms and a plethora of consumer-facing booking options have created an array of challenges for traditional travel agencies, they have survived.