“Doing us all a world of good this year”: TDC celebrates its first in-person Regional Conference in 3 years
Travel professionals at TDC’s 'Rebound' Regional Conference (all photos credit Dan Galbraith)

“Doing us all a world of good”: TDC celebrates first in-person Regional Conference in 3 years

TORONTO — Travel’s comeback after two years of the pandemic has been a rebound of the biggest proportions – making ‘Rebound’ the perfect theme for Transat Distribution Canada’s 2022 Regional Conference.

Taking place this past weekend at the Sheraton Airport Hotel Toronto, the conference “is the opportunity to get everyone together,” says Karine Gagnon, TDC’s General Manager.

Gagnon took over the reins as GM on July 1, following the retirement of Louise Fecteau. Gagnon has been with Transat since 2014, most recently as Commercial Director.


Travelweek spoke with Gagnon, along with Susan Bowman, TDC’s VP Industry Relations, just ahead of the Rebound conference, to offer an update on everything TDC. A recap of Rebound rounds out this article.

TDC is one of the largest full-service travel agency network in Canada, with some 270 agencies, and 2,200 agents.

About 10% of those agents are independent contractors in TDC’s Agent@Home program.

There’s always been movement from bricks-and-mortar to home-based – and vice versa, defying the trend – but during the pandemic, when so many travel advisors and agency owners were examining their options and their life-work balance, there was, yes, unprecedented movement between TDC’s models.

“It got accelerated for sure,” says Bowman. TDC’s management team was fully onboard and ready to facilitate, in constant outreach with agency owners and travel professionals throughout the pandemic, she adds.

“We’ve had bricks-and-mortar owners who’ve retired, but they have great agents at their agency, and those agents have come over to Agent@Home,” says Bowman.

There are also plenty of cases where agency owners have downsized and joined Agent@Home.

TDC has bricks-and-mortar agencies from B.C. to New Brunswick, “and with Agent@Home, our presence goes even beyond that,” says Bowman.

Gagnon says there will be plenty of opportunities to grow going forward, as the travel industry recovers in earnest. “It’s all about growth for 2023,” she said, noting that even during the pandemic, TDC took on new members. “We are constantly looking for opportunities,” she said.


An opportunity of a different kind came in the form of a partnership with luxury travel leader Virtuoso. Earlier this year, TDC’s new luxury-focused division LuxeXperts became the newest member of Virtuoso in Canada. TDC first launched LuxeXperts in June 2021.

With the partnership, certified LuxeXpert advisors have an opportunity to be invited to join Virtuoso. A travel advisor who’s part of the TDC network who wants to take the LuxeXpert program receives plenty of training, not so much on luxury product, but on how to market that kind of trip, to know how to reach those luxury clients, and to know who’s a luxury client and who’s not. Once the agent has received their LuxeXpert certification, they can apply to join Virtuoso.

“We had a large book of luxury business”, and with LuxeXperts and the Virtuoso partnership, “now we can put a bow on it,” says Bowman. “When you have a network this size, you need specialization.”

And it turns out that the pandemic was good for something, in that TDC members who were looking to become LuxeXperts had a bit more time to get their certification. Plus, it allowed TDC to hit the ground running when travel reopened, and to capture an even bigger share of the luxury market. “Launching it during the pandemic was the perfect time,” said Bowman.


In the meantime, bookings are rolling in, “for everything,” says Bowman. Forget the trends, everyone is booking everything at this point in the pandemic: from cruise to beach vacations, from high-end to budget-friendly, from far-out to last-minute.

And client concern about airport chaos and cancellations is subsiding, as travellers adjust to the ‘new normal’.

“Doing us all a world of good this year”: TDC celebrates its first in-person Regional Conference in 3 years

At the Rebound event, TDC’s General Manager, Karine Gagnon

Gagnon and Bowman cite recent statistics from Virtuoso – from consumer polls done internationally – that suggest travellers have become more accepting of potential travel snags than they were earlier this year. Seems like the desire to travel can overcome just about anything.

Even high prices? More polls show that inflation concerns are rampant among Canadian consumers – but pent-up demand for travel is keeping bookings strong regardless.

TDC did an internal look at pricing from four major suppliers, comparing prices from 2019 vs. now. The increases ranged from 5% to a whopping 37%. And yet consumers aren’t daunted.

Patience with higher travel costs might wear thin as the travel euphoria wears off, but for now, after two years of staying at home, travellers want to travel no matter what.

TDC’s sales volume is now very close to 2019 levels, says Gagnon, adding “we’re in a very good direction.”


More good news: the trend to charging service fees continues. Increasing numbers of TDC travel professionals are charging professional fees, a trend that’s seen across the retail travel sector.

“It’s one of the good things that came out of the pandemic,” says Gagnon.

“Doing us all a world of good this year”: TDC celebrates its first in-person Regional Conference in 3 years

TDC’s General Manager, Karine Gagnon

In February 2021 TDC offered its entire network, including franchisees and corporate-owned agencies, as well as its Agent@Home program, a revised professional fee grid. The fee grid details all the services provided to clients by travel professionals, reflecting more accurately the extent of their added value. It came with a comprehensive and free training program for all TDC network travel professionals, introducing a new philosophy towards the invoicing of professional fees.

Later in 2021, TDC launched Express, its comprehensive and easy-to-use digital marketing system. “With Express, with a click of a button, travel professionals can create a flyer, literally in minutes,” says Bowman.

Express has licensed images as well as licensed travel blogs that travel advisors can use to inspire clients – and the advisor’s client database is built right in. So are analytics and CRM.

“It’s the best of all worlds,” says Bowman. Open rates are extremely high, she adds, just under 50%. “When you’re sending something that’s exactly what the client is interested in, it’s extremely effective.”


Close to 150 travel professionals from the TDC network took part in the Rebound event this past weekend, TDC’s first face-to-face Regional Conference in three years. More than 50 of TDC’s preferred partners took part as well.

According to a recap from TDC, a Sept. 16 meeting was dedicated exclusively to the owners of Marlin Travel, Travel Plus and Affiliate agencies. Karine Gagnon and Joseph Adamo, President of TDC and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Transat, gave an update on the state of the industry, TDC and Transat. Virtuoso was on hand too, to explain how the luxury market, a very lucrative segment, can help travel agencies do better in the recovery.

“Doing us all a world of good this year”: TDC celebrates its first in-person Regional Conference in 3 years

Joseph Adamo, President of TDC and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of Transat

Said Gagnon: “Everything surrounding workforce management and employee shortages is a hot topic, so we brought in recruitment and H.R. experts to brainstorm with our owners in a facilitated workshop to try to think outside the box in how they manage recruitment, motivation and retention of their employees.”

Motivational speaker Sylvie Thiffault talked about post-pandemic client relations, and there was a look at insurance too, an even more important part of travel in 2022. Manulife provided practical sales tips that reflect the new reality of travel and the needs associated with it, said Gagnon.

A fun evening event on the Saturday night had everyone celebrating in high style, she added. “Everyone looks forward to this event because the energy it brings is unparalleled and it’s doing us all a world of good this year.”

And Sunday brought a recognition session, recognizing all the incredibly hard work that travel advisors have accomplished over the past 2+ years, and some humour and motivation from comedian and author Susan Stewart.

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