ASTA released its marketing report on the suppler-travel agent relationship, the first study of its kind to examine - from the agency point of view - preferred supplier relationships, most popular booking channels, incentives and the usefulness of supplier education programs.

A key finding of the report, which ASTA Premium members receive in full as part of their membership, was that the reputation and quality of a product is often the strongest factor in determining which suppliers travel agents will use. "The study shows that regardless of a company's size, they all have the tools to engender travel agent loyalty," said ASTA President and CEO Cheryl Hudak, CTC. "The key to survival and growth in the industry from the supplier viewpoint is travel agent brand loyalty and a strong, positive reputation."

The study confirmed that travel agents have a tremendous desire to acquire useful information about products that will assist them in matching the product to their client and close the sale.

Another finding, while not surprising, is that Global Distribution Systems (GDS) remain the preferred booking vehicle for airline travel.

Among other key findings are:

1) A majority of respondents use preferred suppliers for cruise, car rental and tour bookings;

2) Most cruise bookings are made through the cruise line's 800-number;

3) Most respondents prefer to receive special offers from preferred suppliers by e-mail, while GDS sign-in messages rank at the very bottom of the communication preferences;

4) In-office training sessions are the number one method of receiving education;

5) Most agencies participate in fam trips and more than half of respondents say that destination was the most important factor when selecting a fam.

The most important factors when selecting a preferred supplier were: Reputation/quality of product (24.2 percent), commission/override offered (18.7 percent), matches agency's customers (16.6 percent), ease of booking (13.1 percent), first-hand knowledge of the product (12.2 percent), personal relationship with supplier representative (9.7 percent) and loyalty program for agencies (5.4 percent).

To read an executive summary of the report, visit astanet.com