Just a few years ago the home-based niche was a relatively quiet segment of the industry. Now new players are shaking things up.
With more than 40 years in the business, TravelOnly has seen it all. President and CEO Gregory Luciani offers his insights in this edition of Sphere’s Insider Interview.
One thing that surprises him? “Many new-to-the-industry are unaware of just how much specialized knowledge and responsibility an agent has to have to be successful in this business.”
Sphere: What does TravelOnly look for in a travel agent?
Luciani: “Passion, drive, intelligence, prior success in the industry and family values. TravelOnly is very different from other hosts. We have been a family business for more than 40 years and the relationships we build with our agents are based on treating them each of them as an extension of our family.”
Sphere: What’s your take on the direction that the Canadian home-based retail industry is heading?
Luciani: “The future for travel professionals has never been brighter, or more exciting, regardless of whether the agent operates from home or from a storefront. The move towards the home-based business is a derivative of technology, ROI and lifestyle which all play into the migration to the home-based model.
“The old saying ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ has never been more relevant. Of course having more than 40 years of success in the industry helps as well in terms of our financial success and our solid reputation, but most importantly, our supplier relationships are strong and continue to flourish.”
Sphere: Are you seeing more inquiries from agents already with other home-based agency groups, or bricks-and-mortar agents looking for a change, or people who are completely new to the industry, and does that surprise you?
Luciani: “One thing that surprises me is the number of people starting out in this business who are misinformed about the tremendous growth potential of the travel industry.
“Also many new-to-the-industry are unaware of just how much specialized knowledge and responsibility an agent has to have to be successful in this business.
“More than ever agents are coming to TravelOnly from storefronts, other home-based companies or call centre environments and our door is always open. While we have a strong ‘word-of-mouth’ reputation in the industry, most of the agents are referred to us directly from the suppliers.”
Sphere: TravelOnly and its members routinely win high volume awards. What gives TravelOnly agents their edge?
Luciani: “Thank you. We are very honoured to be acknowledged by our suppliers and our peers. The Luciani family and the head office team are passionate about this business and are always striving to improve, whether through training, proprietary technology, marketing and general support. We are very committed to our agents and their clients, as well at our extensive supplier network.”
Sphere: What do you think will be the big sellers in 2016?
Luciani: “I predict, with the low dollar, we’ll be booking a lot of travel to Mexico, Cuba and the D.R. They are bound to see the largest increases year over year.”