TORONTO — Membership for Vacation.com Canada agencies in the new consolidated Travel Leaders Network comes complete with a red maple leaf in the new ‘TL Network’ logo, plus tools for targeting the corporate market and selling power that puts the group at the top of the North American retail travel industry.
The TL Network will make its official debut on Jan. 1, 2017, at which time all Vacation.com Canada members will transition to TL Network membership. The consolidated group will have more than 7,000 agencies across Canada and the U.S. with the addition of U.S.-based Travel Leaders Associates and Results! Travel.
Reaction from Vacation.com Canada member agencies about the move has been positive, says Vacation.com Vice President Christine James. “Talking to agents here, I’ve heard everything from ‘I can see the benefits’ to ‘why didn’t you do it sooner,” said James.
The move strengthens the service proposition for agencies with corporate business, and that’s good news for many Vacation.com Canada agencies, she added. “A lot of our Canadian members have corporate business but didn’t have the tools for it.”
With over $22 billion in annual sales volume, the new TL Network is comprised of more than one-third of North America’s leading travel agencies and is now the largest seller of luxury travel, cruises, river cruises and tours in the travel agency industry.
TL Network Canada will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S.-based Travel Leaders Network LLC, which is a Travel Leaders Group LLC company. All Vacation.com Canada agencies were notified on Aug. 16 that they continue to be members within TL Network.
“You want to have the size and scale so that you can’t be disintermediated,” said John Lovell, CTC, President of Travel Leaders Network and Leisure Group. “Consolidation does create strength. Our three organizations were acting independently. We were three successful companies, but at the same time, we were competing with each other. By becoming one network, with one single voice, you become much more powerful.”
Vacation.com Canada agencies are responsible for 12 – 15% of the group’s total revenue, making it “a major contributor to the overall enterprise”, added Lovell.
The move to consolidation means more efficiencies and more money that the TL Network can put back into member services and products, said Stephen McGillivray, Chief Marketing Officer for U.S.-based Travel Leaders Group.
Travel agents are seeing a renaissance, he added. “Remember when the Internet came in? It was going to punch out travel agents. Funny thing is, even those prognosticators who called for our demise” now see the value of the travel agent distribution channel, he said. “Travel agents are one of the most adaptive people there are. When the commission cuts happened, not only did travel agents survive, they thrived. The true business people stayed and they’re making more money than they ever did. The retail travel agent is here to stay, and in a more significant role.
The new TL Network’s 7,000+ agencies in Canada and the U.S. comprise some 35,000 individual sellers of travel. “We were already big. We were already up there. We just added more muscle,” said McGillivray.
With its consolidated selling power, the group is looking for more from its partners, he added. “Our message to suppliers is, we want to be treated fairly,” he said. “We have 104 partners representing more than 180 brands. We want to be treated fairly. And we will be.”
The group represents more than 50% of the revenues for many suppliers, added Lovell.
The new TL Network will continue to offer varying levels of participation. Apart from the combined organization’s new name, participating agencies will see few changes before 2017. Among the major changes that participating agencies will see include:
· Agent Profiler: By 2017, bios from all qualifying agents from Vacation.com will be added to TL Network’s online Agent Profiler directory, thus further elevating the award-winning program’s search engine optimization (SEO) for every participating agent.
. Annual Conference: Beginning in 2017, TL Network will convene an overlapping convention in which US-based Travel Leaders Associates will share their final day with the first day for members from the rest of TL Network.
. Marketing: The blended marketing team will be more focused on providing innovative solutions and additional marketing publications designed to break through to more effectively compete with forces beyond the traditional travel agency space.
. Technology Access: Based on participation agreements, agents will have access to programs including CruisePRO, AgentMate and corporate business solutions. For Canadian agencies, the website TLNetworkCanada.ca will offer outlets for placement, multiple bios and specializations, blogs and photo galleries. The Vacation.com URL will go offline for a time but will be repurposed in a way that benefits TL Network members.
“In Canada, our overriding focus is always based on delivering an even greater return on our Vacation.com Members’ changing and evolving needs,” said James. “While we are joining forces with two other two brands that have not been part of the Canadian landscape, the incredible might that they offer – including innovative business travel solutions, education and training, technology and so much more – will ultimately make our offering to the growing number of existing Vacation.com Canada Members more attractive. With a stronger value proposition as TL Network, we are confident that the agencies we serve can more effectively compete both within and beyond the traditional travel agency space.”