If there was one person who could truly be called an icon of the travel industry, it was Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
TORONTO — Despite tough times in the industry, The Travel Agent Next Door still has the backs of its members.
That’s one of the reasons why the host agency maintained its Partner Incentive Program in 2020, paying out some $40,000 to qualifying TTAND agents in support of their hard work.
Especially in 2020, the most difficult year by far in the history of the Canadian travel industry, “I felt very strongly that it was very important to support our agents,” said TTAND CEO, Flemming Friisdahl.
Welcoming TTAND’s top suppliers to last night’s ‘Virtual VIP Supplier Event’, Friisdahl said TTAND is strong despite the pandemic’s challenges. “TTAND is suffering like everyone else. But we haven’t had any layoffs. Our staff is on a 10% reduced schedule. We’ve secured $2 million in funding if we need it.”
Friisdahl joked that the host agency is in a good position to weather the storm “because I’m very frugal.” The federal government’s support measures have been key as well. “Thank god for the wage subsidy, and the rent subsidy, and the job sharing program. We’re using them all,” he said.
TTAND currently has 510 Primary Agents and 401 Associate Agents. Every year the numbers go up; in 2019 there were 435 and 359 respectively, and in 2018, there were 378 and 272. “Even during COVID, people want to join TTAND,” he said.
By 2021 he estimates TTAND will have more than 1,000 agents.
After $165 million in sales in 2019, estimates for 2020 and 2021 are of course down from pre-COVID projections. TTAND is projecting $28 million for 2020 and $80 million for 2021.
Last month TTAND was named the number one agency for total sales with Ensemble suppliers in 2019 for Ensemble Canada.
The number of Preferred and Approved suppliers in TTAND’s portfolio remains low compared to other host agencies and consortiums, and that’s intentional, says Friisdahl. “Fewer suppliers equals more sales for everyone,” he said. TTAND’s 20 Preferred suppliers make up 50% of the host agency’s sales, and its 29 Approved suppliers make up 32%. The 435 other suppliers that TTAND works with account for 18% of sales.
TTAND’s key strengths are four-fold, he told suppliers. “One, we work with the lowest number of suppliers in the industry. Two, we give the highest split to agents in the industry. Three, there’s our annual Partner Incentive Program, and only TTAND does this. And four, our complete marketing program includes electronic, print (magazines) and websites.”
Shean Carmichael, TTAND’s Director of Marketing and Communications, reviewed the highlights of TTAND’s email marketing campaigns and the Zero Interest Program, better known as Z.I.P. “We make it easy for clients to let agents know they want to ‘zip their trip’,” said Carmichael.
And TTAND VP Penny Martin outlined everything from TTAND University offerings, to the host agency’s growing Groups Department.