Travel Professionals International (TPI) has partnered with travel financing platform Uplift and will be unrolling a payment plan tool for its advisors this summer, PAX has learned.
Colton Chia, director of partnerships at TPI, confirmed the news with PAX via telephone this morning.
“I love that Uplift is focused on travel exclusively,” Chia told PAX. “It’s a great tool for our advisors to offer flexible payment solution to our clients.”
Uplift, a Silicon Valley FinTech company that gives travellers the ability to book now and pay over time, was launched in 2017 by CEO Brian Barth.
The web-based tool was first introduced to Canada last March, and works exclusively through industry partners by integrating a monthly payment option into booking flows while offering custom-tailored payment solutions for travel agents and call centres.
Beyond offering a payment solution service, Uplift gives customers an option “they might not have thought about,” Chia said. “That’s key.”
The news of TPI's partnership with Uplift unfolds as another host agency, TravelOnly, revealed to PAX yesterday that it had formed a similar arrangement with the payment plan company, which entered the Canadian market in March.
Denise Heffron, managing director for Canada at Uplift, told PAX that she is “thrilled” to be in partnership with both host agencies.
“Uplift is proud to be at the forefront of travel installment payment options and we are thrilled to be in partnership with both TravelOnly and TPI,” Heffron told PAX in a statement.
“Our product is perfectly suited to the host agency model and we are so pleased that Uplift will be available to consumers through these trusted partners and their professional advisors."
Getting ready to launch
TPI will officially introduce Uplift within its network of travel advisors mid-June, Chia said.
Preliminary testing of the platform began last week by a select group of people consisting of TPI's advisory board members, tech committee and select travel agents.
“The idea was to roll it out to a small group and get feedback and input. To make sure everything is running smoothly,” Chia told PAX. “Any customizations that need to be made, we can add.”
Part of TPI incorporating Uplift into its day-to-day operations was about identifying different types of client profiles and how each could benefit from a payment solution.
“A lot of people think of a payment solution as, ‘I don’t have the money.’ But in reality, it’s about cash management,” Chia said, citing accessibility, affordability and reward as three motivating factors that drive payment solutions for travel.
Whether it’s that couple who wants to splurge on a 20th anniversary trip or a bucket list safari on the other side of the world, it all comes down to giving the customer what they want.
“If [customers] want flexibility, then we should be able to offer that as travel advisor," said Chia. “We can work with them to plan a big-scale trip, further out.”
Quick and easy
Uplift’s accessible platform was a big sell for TPI.
“You take the amount of a trip, put it in the tool, and it automatically calculates a price and monthly payment plan that [advisors] can discuss with clients to see if this is something they’d be interested in,” Chia explained.
The program will give customers the option of paying for travel over 12 months (the first payment is made at the time of the booking and then 11 monthly payments will follow).
“It’s not a predatory loan provider. It’s simple interest,” Chia said. “What you see is what you’re going to pay.”
TPI travel advisor Carl Henderson, a Certified Tahiti Specialist, admits he wasn’t initially sold on Uplift in the beginning.
“My initial reaction was that [financing a trip] would be the last thing in the world I’d want to promote,” Henderson said in a statement. “[I was] thinking about getting all these clients that can’t afford to travel, wasting my time. I want to go for clients with lots of money, not no money.”
But after researching it more, he realized that Uplift “seems pretty seamless from the advisor side.”
“I also realize the number of Tahiti honeymoon clients that come to me and say they have a $10,000 budget, which is just not enough for a good trip to Tahiti. They need at least $13,000 to $15,000," he said.
"My thoughts are that this could be a great tool [for] people who are doing those big-ticket, bucket list trips and are just shy of the amount they need to achieve it,” he said.
“I think it could really help me close some sales that I am losing or having to switch to less expensive destinations,” Henderson added.
What it all means
The news of TPI and TravelOnly’s partnerships with Uplift come on the heels of another host agency, The Travel Agent Next Door (TTAND), unveiling a financing program of its own earlier this month.
Speaking to agents at TTAND’s national conference in Mexico, company founder Flemming Friisdahl announced that TTAND will be launching a zero interest payment program this July.
There will be a fee to use the service, paid for by the customer, Friisdahl said, who hinted that some suppliers had expressed interest in covering the fee.
TTAND’s zero interest program will offer equal payment plans spread over three, six and 12 months.
“I really believe it’s something that’s going to make a significant difference in the industry,” Friisdahl said at the conference.
Colton Chia views the new wave of travel payment options as a “positive step for the travel advisor community.”
“With the advancements in online platforms to encourage consumers to book their own travel, we as an industry need to continually adopt technologies that empower us to provide our clients with the options and convenience that we all want,” he said.
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