Travel Leaders Network hosted 80 members at Vancouver’s Brock House last night for a momentous 150th Mixer event. Sue Urie, business solutions manager for TL Network in Western Canada, was very proud to reach this important milestone.
“This year is Canada’s 150th birthday, and we are celebrating our 150th Mixer!” Urie told the full house.
The first Members Mixer was held on Jan. 27, 2007 under the name Vacation.com, and some of those members present then, were also present last night, signifying resilience in the consortium’s membership. Travel Leaders has grown to 7,100 members, generating $35 billion in business. As members and supplier partners came together for a trade show and an early Christmas turkey dinner, it was a time to reflect on past successes, and ponder the future.
During dinner, several supplier partners had the chance to address the group. The message of the evening from all suppliers was consistent – as world events, economy and weather create tumultuous times for travellers and travel providers, it is more important than ever for the travel professionals to be educated in product, develop solid relationships with supplier partners, and cultivate trust and loyalty with clients. Here are some words of wisdom from guest speakers:
It was a tough year in the Caribbean as hurricanes wreaked havoc on the islands, but Carlo Trinidad of AMResorts asked us all to look on the bright side - many of the islands were untouched, and those that were affected are rebounding quickly. Agents are encouraged to use the strength of the partnerships with their BDMs to be educated and relay the right information to clients, not dwell on negativity, and confidently recommend the Caribbean as a vacation destination.
Paul Dorgan of Big Five Tours & Expeditions stressed the importance for agents to cultivate loyal clients rather than process them as transactions. Clients booking bucket-list travel are looking for imaginative and creative itineraries that allow them to enjoy the best experience, and they need special attention from a travel professional. Big Five Tours offers high-end FIT tours to Latin America, Africa, Asia and South Pacific, and will conduct a conference call with the agent and the client to answer all questions and create a customized travel plan to achieve these goals.
Lea-Ann Goltz of Hawaii Tourism Canada encouraged agents to become Hawaii Destination Specialists. Hawaii’s six islands are unique and offer diverse landscapes and activities for everyone, and completing the agent training will provide great selling techniques and resource tools to give their clients the best suitable vacation.
Claire Rottare of Insight Vacations announced the new Luxury Gold Program offering customized vacations for discerning travelers looking for exclusive experiences. Special touches such as chauffeur-driven limousine tours and private dinners in the Vatican are just two examples of what Insight can offer and how agents can set themselves apart by offering these bespoke tours.
Nancy Darby of Manulife Insurance advised that new Manulife-branded collateral will be coming to agencies soon. The Premium Protection Plan that was introduced a year ago is the best selling plan, as it is the least complicated policy that removes a multitude of exclusions, and provides a comprehensive refund protection for cancellations up to 24 hours prior to travel. This plan can only be purchased through travel agents, and agents should always be recommending travel insurance on every travel transaction that is sold.
Cathy Denroche of Oceania Cruises wants agents to “dig deeper down” and engage their clients on a whole new level. “Canadians are resilient and will travel despite the exchange, or the world political climate. Get to know your clients and help them plan their dream vacation. Select preferred partners and work together towards success.” Clients will naturally transition to the premium deluxe product and Oceania will provide the experience for clients who enjoy intimate ships, fine cuisine, and those who seek destination immersion.
Miles Walker from On the Go Tours announced new tours to Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greenland. Also new are active holidays with hiking and biking tours. A comprehensive Travel Agent Guide is available with information on tours and destinations. Current agent incentives include a free trip for agents who sell four passengers, as well as FAMs to several destinations.
Jennifer Bond provided an update on Travel Bound, namely that it has been sold and now forms a part of The Hotel Beds Group, one of the largest FIT hotel providers of the world. Clients will now have a wider choice of hotel inventory and agents will benefit from efficiencies of amalgamated systems. More details to follow.
And finally, Kim Lucy of Viking Cruises issued a challenge to all agents in the room. “Over the holidays, write down three things you will do differently in 2018 that will have an impact on your business.” And she shared a great tip to double your business - by asking one simple question when closing a sale: “Is there another couple who would like to travel with you?”