Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
One of Canada’s leading host agencies for home-based travel agents will be launching its own travel financing program this week, PAX has learned.
Gregory Luciani, president and CEO of TravelOnly, confirmed with PAX today (May 14th) that TravelOnly has partnered with Uplift, a Silicon Valley FinTech company that gives travellers the ability to book now and pay over time.
Uplift was launched in 2017 by CEO Brian Barth and was introduced to Canada just last March. It works exclusively through industry partners by integrating a monthly payment option into their booking flows.
It also offers a custom-tailored solution for travel agents and call centres, ensuring access for off-line transactions.
“We’ve wanted financing for so many years,” Luciani told PAX in an exclusive telephone interview. “It’s a tool that big box retailers have been using. This gives us the ability to take back that market share.”
In the United States, Uplift has partnered with major players such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Universal Studios, American Airlines Vacations, Southwest Vacations, Spirit Airlines and others.
TravelOnly’s flexible payment program will officially launch this Friday, May 17th.
How does it work?
The plan will give customers the option of paying for travel over 12 months, Luciani said.
The first payment is made at the time of the booking and then 11 monthly payments will follow. If insurance is purchased, the first payment must cover that cost.
Many of TravelOnly’s associates have already received training in the new program, which, for some, was viewed as “an immediate need” for clients who, for example, are in the middle of managing costs associated with destination weddings, Luciani said.
“It’s not that people don’t or won’t have the money. It’s an issue of cash flow,” Luciani said.
The option of a deferred payment solution also means customers are more likely to book immediately or purchase upgrades and add-ons.
“We’re thrilled to bring this to market for agents because we know it’s going to increase their bottom line and customer satisfaction,” Luciani told PAX.
The reason why TravelOnly chose Uplift (as opposed to other financing companies) was for its customer service network (it will be launching a 24/7 help line this summer, for one) and its direct ties to the travel industry.
“We’re not bankers, we’re travel agents,” Luciani told PAX. “Financing is unique and requires expertise. We went through all the competitors and Uplift was head and shoulders above the rest because of its support and knowledge.”
Uplift is “able to support travel agents,” Luciani said. “That’s critical.”
It also helps to have a familiar face in your corner.
Overseeing the launch of Uplift in Canada is Denise Heffron, who retired from Transat last year after almost 25 years of service. She now serves as Uplift’s managing director for Canada.
“When I knew Denise was in charge of Canada, I knew this was the right product,” Luciani told PAX. “I’ve worked with Denise for 20 years. I have a lot of respect for her. She wouldn’t align herself with a company that didn’t have the most pristine management and philosophy and corporate mission.”
“To know we’re dealing with a trusted partner is key,” Luciani said.
Heffron said she is “thrilled” about the new partnership.
“Servicing travel advisors is extremely important to us -- technology, tools, training and support is a fundamental part of what we do. Uplift is proud to be at the forefront of travel installment payment options,” Heffron said in a statement to PAX.
Financing travel dreams
For TravelOnly associates like Wayde Salmon of Gateway Getaways, Uplift’s program “opens much more opportunity” for his customers.
“There are families who can’t afford to travel because they don’t have the funds immediately. This gives them that opportunity to go on the vacation they want,” said Salmon, who specializes in destination weddings and group travel.
Salmon is currently working on booking a group of 25-30 people to Ghana, West Africa to attend a festival that acknowledges the date of when the first slave ships arrived 400 years ago.
The trip, which costs around $5,500 per person, is “going to be an emotional one,” Salmon said, noting that Uplift’s financing plan “was a great option” for helping some clients manage the price tag.
To that end, Salmon clarified that financing “isn’t just for those who can’t afford travel.”
“It helps people budget accordingly,” he said. “It can be for people living religiously by a budgetary plan and don’t want to see $5,000 leave their account immediately. They want to work it in over time.”
Salmon added: "Uplift offers the flexibility to make the decision to pay for your trip the way you want to. Whether it's 100 per cent now, 50 per cent now, or 10 per cent now. The choice is yours."
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!