What’s The Travel Agent Next Door difference? “We are not doing many things that other host agencies could not do. We just do them all,” says Flemming Friisdahl, Founder, The Travel Agent Next Door in this edition of Friday 5.
1. The Travel Agent Next Door has become a major host agency in a very short amount of time. What has been the key to the company’s success as it comes up on its 4th anniversary on March 19?
“The key is to make sure we make it a WIN for everyone – our agents/customers/partners and our suppliers – and it needs to be a win for The Travel Agent Next Door. We are not doing many things that other host agencies could not do, we just do them all. Nobody else does what The Travel Agent Next Door does, from the website, to electronic marketing, to print marketing, to support. We have 10 agents for every 1 support member, who else does that in Canada? Nobody! We believe in making the focus on the most important partners we have, travel agents and business partners
2. There are more players in the host agency field, and many, many more home-based agents. How much has the home-based retail travel sector grown in Canada?
“It is estimated that 35% of all travel agents in Canada are now home-based. That’s up from 25% when we originally launched in 2014. Now these are estimates, as it is hard to know for certain. But it is based on a recent survey done with the end consumer (the traveller) and 35% of them said they booked with a home-based agent. Also based on estimates from ACTA.”
3. Why do you think so many agents are making the switch to home-based – and is there a growing number of agents who are starting out as home-based from the get-go, without ever working in bricks-and-mortar agencies?
“The two key reasons agents are going home-based: 1) they get to keep more of the commission, while having many tax deductions being self-employed; and 2) work / life freedom and building their own business. It is amazing how many people are coming into the industry in their 40s and 50s and often as a second career.
“What concerns me is that some provinces have no regulations, and I think this is unfortunate. Why? Because as a travel professional you deal with three very important things: the consumer’s disposable income; the consumer’s vacation time; and the important time consumers spend with their family. No other business has these responsibilities, yet to be a travel agent you do not need to be licensed in many provinces.”
4. What are some of your major wins from this past year?
“[Laughing] I always say that ‘we are still here’, but I am kidding, of course, as I knew we would be. One, we made a profit last year, not huge but we did it in just three years, and we paid the highest commission splits in the industry. Two, we became one of only two host agencies doing over $80,000,000 in sales. Three, we launched a new website for all our agents and a new accounting system. And four, we also broke the 300 mark for primary agents.”
5. What can agents look forward to from The Travel Agent Next Door in 2018 and beyond?
“We will be launching deep link marketing and it will be amazing for our agents and something very new. We just launched a new Extranet for all our agents and it has an amazing searchability. Then we will be launching air booking engines and a dynamic booking engine on all our agents’ websites, pretty exciting. What will be really cool is we will be the first host agency in Canada doing profit sharing and we will be announcing the amount at our annual conference in April. So many other things on the go but still a secret!”