INTERVIEW: TTAND founder & CEO Flemming Friisdahl on industry changes, and big commissions
Flemming Friisdahl, Founder & CEO, The Travel Agent Next Door

INTERVIEW: TTAND founder & CEO Flemming Friisdahl on industry changes, and big commissions

TORONTO — Flemming Friisdahl is no stranger to start-ups.

After more than 30 years working for big brands in the travel industry – including MyTravel / Thomas Cook North America – Friisdahl struck out on his own and founded The Travel Agent Next Door.

Less than a decade later TTAND is now, by its own calculations, the largest host agency in Canada with the highest sales volume.

TTAND will mark its 10th anniversary with a big celebration at its next annual conference, taking place in Jordan in June 2024.

For this latest Q&A for Travelweek’s 50th anniversary interview series, we connected with Friisdahl to get his take on the biggest changes in the industry over these past few decades. He also talks about TTAND’s early days, and travel’s triumphant comeback (complete with a recent $47,000 commission for one TTAND agent partner).

Travelweek: Your experience in travel includes some of the biggest brands in the industry – like MyTravel Canada, and Thomas Cook. When you think back on those earlier days, what memories come to mind?

Friisdahl: “What stands out most, is how the industry hasn’t changed a lot except there’s been a tremendous amount of consolidation.

“The number of retail locations has shrunk so much. We used to have BCAA Travel, Sears Travel, CWT Travel, Amex Travel and many more. I only remember this because I would spend 2 – 3 months away attending conferences every year.

“And the number of suppliers … if you look at TravelBrands today, that used to be Sunquest, Thomas Cook, Network, Intair, Encore, Alba Tours, Holiday House, Silverfern Holidays, Nordic Tours. I remember this because I was there when all these brands came together to become the Holiday Network and then MyTravel and then Thomas Cook.

“I truly believe that the big constant in the Canadian travel industry is mom-and-pop, family-run businesses like Goway, TRAVELSAVERS or Transat (they started as a small company) – and especially local travel agencies – they will always be the backbone of the travel industry.”


Travelweek: From those major corporations you did a complete 180 and became an entrepreneur, starting The Travel Agent Next Door from scratch. What was your thinking as you took that life-changing leap?

Friisdahl: “I started The Travel Agent Next Door partly by luck and had no idea we would grow to be such an amazing community.

“Yep, sounds like a commercial, I know. But one of my main beliefs, is the 3 W’s (Win for our agent partners, Win for our supplier partners and Win for The Travel Agent Next Door). If we are not hitting all three Ws, we should not do it.

“Many people may not know how hard it was. Rhonda had to keep working a job she had grown out of, but we needed her salary. I was not paid for two and half years by TTAND because I was re-investing the money to pay for the amazing support team we were putting together.

“If I had not worked at Thomas Cook and met so many amazing people who taught me so much over the 20 years, TTAND would probably NOT have been successful. They taught me a lot about processes and making sure you do what you say you are going to do, and don’t say you can do something if you are not able to achieve it.”


Travelweek: TTAND wrapped up 2022 with $275 million in sales, making it Canada’s largest host agency with the highest sales volume. It’s an incredible accomplishment by you and the TTAND team, and the TTAND members. Why do you think TTAND has been so successful?

Friisdahl: “We projected our agents’ sales would finish the year at $260 million but they actually finished at $275 million. That’s a 66% increase over 2019.

“Our success has so much to do with the 3 Ws. Without our agent partners, we would not have a business. Without our supplier partners we would not have travel products to sell, and without the TTAND support team, no agents would want to be with us and suppliers would not want to work with us.

“We have an amazing team of 60 employees all pulling in one direction, making us better than yesterday! That’s it, no magic, just focus, do what you can and keep doing it better every day.

“We have not always been successful, but that’s OK, we have today, and we will be better tomorrow. If we don’t get a little bit better each day, we will not be the best one day.

“And when I say the best, I am NOT referring to sales, or making money. I am referring to making it better for everyone we serve!!”


Travelweek: The year ahead looks to be truly the comeback year for travel. How are TTAND’s booking volumes right now, what are the challenges ahead, and what are you most excited about for 2023?

Friisdahl: “Our partner agents are having an amazing year. They will produce around $400 million in sales. That will be a record for any retailer in Canada.

“I am so happy for our partner agents as they are taking home some huge commissions. Literally, I had one agent partner take home commission of $47,000 yesterday because she receives 100% of the commission for that supplier. How can you not but be excited for all our partners, (agents and suppliers) – it truly is a win-win-win for everyone.

“The biggest challenge and not just for TTAND, but the industry, is finding support staff. It’s not easy. We are hiring staff every 3 – 4 weeks for the next 6 months. That’s key and we have recently hired 5 additional staff.

“What am I most excited about for 2023? Consumers are travelling, partner agents are making the most money ever, the average selling price is the highest in many years improving the profits of both agents and suppliers, and this is truly a GREAT THING.”

TTAND’s site is Watch for more interviews and memories in Travelweek Daily in the weeks to come, marking Travelweek’s 50th anniversary. Plus, try your luck with our contest, ‘It Happened This Week’, featuring a new headline (and a new chance to win!) every week from Travelweek’s 50 years of travel industry news coverage.

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