“It’s a good time to be a travel advisor”: Why TL Network’s 2023 outlook is all about confidence

“It’s a good time to be a travel advisor”: Why TL Network’s 2023 outlook is all about confidence 

TORONTO — Bookings are rolling in and clients are clamouring for trips, and travel agents have never been more in demand.

It’s a good time to be a travel advisor, say TL Network executives, in Toronto to present their annual update and overview with the trade media.

It’s also a good time to be a travel agency consortium. TL Network, now with more than 5,000 member agencies, has seen sales skyrocket coming out of the pandemic, fuelled by its travel agency members who are working hard to make their clients’ travel dreams come true.


Revenge travel is real, and from the Canadian market, clients are taking longer vacations, upgrading their accommodation and booking plenty of add-ons in-destination, said John Lovell, President, Travel Leaders Group.

Lovell offered a look at booking trends in his kick-off to yesterday’s presentation.

“It’s like Canadian travellers are saying, ‘oh, I’m free again’, and they’re taking time to enjoy themselves on vacation, at price points that are strong across the board,” said Lovell.

And that means travel agents are more important than ever. “Travellers want validation, confirmation and guidance, and travel agents can really cut through that,” said Lovell. “Throughout the pandemic, travel agents really showed their worth. I don’t think there’s been a better time to be a travel agent in this industry.”


The popularity of river cruising, on the rise for years, is now off the charts. Inventory is tight. Says Lovell: “We tell travel advisors, if you have a client who wants to take a river cruise, better book them now.”

He cites a 2022 TravelStyle poll: 16 million North Americans want to go on a river cruise again, and 37 million North Americans want to take a river cruise for the first time.

Interest in expedition cruising is also strong. “Demand is extremely high, and yields are up,” says Lovell about this increasingly popular cruise style.

Meanwhile traditional ocean cruising is as popular as ever coming out of the segment’s long pause during the pandemic. “Ships are being built at breakneck speed,” said Lovell. “And that means we’re going to have more opportunities to sell more capacity.”


Lovell expects that 2023 “will bring a balancing” as cruise bookings finally get back to 2019 levels. As for land bookings, Europe is now gangbusters for TL Network agencies, especially top sellers Italy, the UK, Spain and Portugal.

More good news: recession and other financial concerns haven’t put too big of a dent in travel’s recovery, so far at least.

“It all comes down to confidence,” says Lovell. “We’re confident the consumer is going to continue to travel. Spend is strong, and we’re not seeing a negative impact from any concerns about the economy. Consumers are confident in their finances and being able to travel. And suppliers are confident in their ability to fill their ships and resorts.”


TL Network now has 5,000+ member agencies, accounting for more than 97,000 sellers of travel. “That’s the highest it’s ever been,” said Roger Block, President, Travel Leaders Network.

The numbers are strong for TL Network in Canada too. Christine James, VP Canada, TL Network, said 49 new members joined in 2022, bringing in $116 million in sales. Year to date, another three members have joined, for another $1 million in sales. TL Network Canada is also enjoying a record high retention rate, at 98%.

High-profile additions to the network in 2021 included The Travel Agent Next Door.

TL Network Canada now has just over 650 member agencies. “We’re definitely the largest in Canada, and we’re about to be much bigger,” said James.

No further details are available just yet, but it sounds like another high-profile addition for TL Network Canada could be announced within a month or so.


James says TL Network Canada saw great success with its 2022 Fall Regionals, with more of the events planned for 2023, in Edmonton (Oct. 17), Vancouver (Oct. 19) and Toronto (Oct. 25).

Meanwhile the Mixers are already underway, with a series of get togethers that kicked off in January in Alberta and continue this month in Scarborough (Feb. 15). The schedule of winter/spring Mixers continues through June, and then the fall Mixers start in late August.

And for TL Network’s EDGE conference, taking place in May in Nashville, TN, more than 100 TL Network Canada agencies are registered to attend, with other hopeful agencies on a waiting list.


TL Network’s presentation also included member product and tech updates.

A re-design for the CanadianTravelAgents.ca site is on the way. The new look will incorporate a modern design and will be mobile-friendly. Multi-faceted searches will allow consumers to search by any combination of destination expertise, interest specialization and advisor location.


Also new, Agent Profiler is getting new itinerary content, and advisors can promote custom itineraries, and build customized itineraries as part of their specialized profiles. Of note, some 350 agents qualified for the new ‘Super Agent’ designation, in the first six months of the program’s launch.

Agent Profiler is a key driver in TL Network’s ability to attract and retail members. The stats for Agent Profiler and Profiler Plus are impressive. In 2019, there were 6,917 leads for TL Network agencies. The pandemic years brought 4,214 leads (2020) and 6,258 (2021). And 2022? An astounding 12,764 leads.

“This isn’t just traffic. It’s traffic that converts, and picks a travel agent to work with,” says Stephen McGillivray, Travel Leaders Group’s Chief Marketing Officer.

McGillivray highlighted a letter that one TL Network agent received from a new client who found her using the lead generating tools. Noting “we have never used a travel agent”, the client admits that “we find ourselves too busy to sit down and do all the research required to have a great trip.” Enter the travel agent, says McGillivray.

He also highlighted other tools in TL Network’s marketing arsenal, from its multi-faceted Engagement Program, to its exclusive Cruise Programs (Distinctive Voyages, Amenity Dates and Culinary Collection).


The consortium’s CruisePRO will be replaced by Cruise Complete. Cory Voss, VP, Product & Solutions, Travel Leaders Group says Cruise Complete is a white labelled Travelport Cruise & Tour product. Beta testing kicks off in Q1 with a full launch expected in Q2. Voss says Cruise Complete will be 100% web based, with a single sign-in from the TLN extranet, Agent Universe. There’s live inventory and pricing, and best of all for Canadian agents, there’s Canadian pricing too.

Also new, TL Network will be introducing a new leisure online booking tool, geared to ICs and non-GDS agents. Voss says it’s “truly a feature-rich tool that will be a difference maker for agents.”


There were plenty of marketing updates yesterday, but if there was one take-home message for agents, it was this: social media matters more than some agents might think.

TL Network has some good tools for helping its members with social media, because while most agents appreciate its importance, not everyone knows how to do social media for their business, or wants to do it, or has time for it.

Not surprisingly, when TL Network offers any sort of educational opportunity on social media how-to’s for its members, “they’re our highest attended, agents fill the room,” said McGillivray.

“If you’re not on these social media channels, as a travel retailer, you’re kind of getting left behind,” he added. “Even for sites like TikTok, you might think it doesn’t matter, but it does. And especially for those kinds of sites, what succeeds aren’t Hollywood-level productions. The authentic clips are the ones that get traction.”

Overwhelmed by the thought of finding time you don’t have to manage your agency’s social media feeds? TL Network can help, with its Social Share & Scheduler tool. It’s a one-click tool that allows advisors to share Travel Leaders organic promotions, blogs, destination and interest-based content on their social channels with their Agent Profiler as the call-to-action.

McGillivray said Social Share & Scheduler has seen a 62% increase in advisor use since 2022. Some 1,037 advisors used Social Share & Scheduler in 2022, with 9,326 pieces of content shared on their channels.

“We create the post, we create the blog, and they look like they come from the agent. That’s the beauty of it,” said McGillivray.

TL Network also has downloadable Instagram Reels and other short-form videos for TikTok and more, created by the consortium’s social team in partnership with suppliers and destination partners. The videos are easy to download and share on social media, said McGillivray.

TL Network offers 15-minute monthly ‘Social Media Snacks’ webinars featuring live training on everything from creating Instagram Stories, to Reels and more.


There’s always been competition in the consortium space, on everything from marketing tools and tech products, to sales volumes and membership numbers.

The competitive landscape doesn’t faze TL Network.

“Competition is a good thing,” says Lovell. “We don’t look over our shoulder. The cornerstone of our organization is to make our agency members better, more profitable and more efficient.”

Roger Block, President, Travel Leaders Network, said newcomers from other consortia “can’t believe the depth of what we offer.”

“Winning for us means our membership continues to grow,” added Lovell.

Caption for main image: John Lovell, President, Travel Leaders Group; Roger Block, President, Travel Leaders Network; Christine James, VP Canada, TL Network; Stephen McGillivray, Travel Leaders Group’s Chief Marketing Officer; and Cory Voss, VP, Product & Solutions, Travel Leaders Group

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