Lost commission payments are the biggest worry for travel agents in Western Europe, new research by Amadeus has found.
The GDS and travel IT provider said 34% of agents said reduced commissions were the "Number One Challenge" facing their business.
In its White Paper "Service Fees and Commission Cuts: Opportunities and Best Practices for Travel Agencies", Amadeus said that commissions from airlines had fallen from about 10% of fares in the mid-1990s to zero in many markets.
But the Paper also looks at markets which have successfully weathered this storm by using service fee business models to make up for the lost commission revenue.
These include agencies in the US, Scandinavia and Germany.
Amadeus reports that US agents have "increasingly relied on customer-paid fees or service charges to replace lost airline revenues."
It says that 96.8% of members of the American Society of Travel Agents charge fees "for at least some client services, and among those who effectively charge fees, rates continue to rise."
In Scandinavia Amadeus said research showed that 73% of revenue for business travel agents came from fees with "only 18%" coming from commissions, usually of car and hotel bookings.
The Papers offer four "tips" for agencies aiming to implement a service fee model.
* Educate staff on service fee schemes and high margin products
* Tell customers up front about the fees and the new service fee model.
* Automate processes for charging fees to avoid errors and increase agents' efficiency
* Identify the services for which customers see the highest value and for which they are willing to pay.
Amadeus said the top five identified by its research were: trip planning, hotel-only bookings, special coupons, cruises and frequent flyer reservations.
Claude Giaferri, Amadeus' vp travel office products and solutions, said the White Paper aimed to help agents moving from commission revenue to a service fee model.
* see BTE Analysis
* see BTE's recruitment site www.businesstraveljobs.com