CANCUN — TTAND’s theme for this year’s annual travel agent conference, held at the Majestic Elegance Costa Mujeres this week, is ‘Breaking Barriers Together.’
After nine years in the business, The Travel Agent Next Door is breaking new barriers — and celebrating those achievements, particularly after surviving tough years during the pandemic.
For one thing, this week’s conference at Mexico’s Majestic Elegance Costa Mujeres is the largest gathering of independent home-based agents held outside of Canada, with some 240 travel agents and 67 suppliers (from 42 companies) in attendance.
During the worst of the pandemic, TTAND managed to keep its staff employed, though many experienced travel agents across the industry retired or left the travel business altogether.
Now, during the travel rebound, TTAND has hired more staff, added new suppliers and is paying more commission to its agent partners, with a 66% increase in sales from 2019.
It’s also onboarding, on average, 43 agents per month.
New suppliers in attendance at the conference include Silversea, Project Expedition and the Jordan Tourism Board.
MORE AGENTS, HIGHER SALES ON AVERAGE
“Right now we’re looking at the highest number of agents with any host agency,” said Flemming Friisdahl, TTAND’s founder and CEO, during the opening session. TTAND now has 1,100 agents and 60 staff. And some of those agents have also “broken barriers” with sales.
“Why are we seeing higher sales on average as a company than most?” says Friisdahl in an interview with Travelweek. “I’m seeing some of the agencies generate revenue by bringing in a ton of new agents.” But that’s not TTAND’s approach – despite adding new agents to its roster.
TTAND still has a two-year onboarding process (which is currently being revamped to ensure a smoother transition for new agents), and still has a high staff-to-agent ratio. Friisdahl also points to supports that are “breaking barriers” for agents.
For example, a refreshed email campaign is leading to higher click-throughs, and TTAND will soon be launching customizable emails.
NEW GROUPS PROGRAM
A new Groups program will also be launching this year. TTAND has been promising this for the past two years, but Friisdahl says it hasn’t gotten off the ground because of the pandemic and the lack of group bookings during those years.
A version of Travefy (itinerary management and communication software for travel professionals) will be part of the Groups program, which TTAND believes will be a “game changer.”
A B2B2C cruise booking engine will be the first program to launch with Travefy, and should be ready by the end of Q3 or start of Q4. TTAND will be the test company for this program – and will cover the cost of the program for its agents. TTAND will also launch a land excursion booking engine with Travefy.
The French website is currently being completed, with a delivery date of June 15.
TTAND’s TOP SUPPLIERS
TTAND announced its top suppliers at the conference. Here’s the list …
- All-Inclusive for Sun Packages supplier of 2022: Air Canada Vacations
- Escorted Group Touring supplier of 2022: G Adventures
- Ocean Cruise supplier of 2022: Celebrity Cruises
- River Cruise supplier of 2022: AmaWaterways
- FIT Supplier of 2022: Goway
- Hotel/Resort supplier of 2022: AMR Collection
- Specialty Product supplier of 2022: Project Expeditions
- Preferred Supplier of 2022: Air Canada Vacations
- Approved Supplier of 2022: Goway
TTAND’s conference continues this week at Majestic Elegance Costa Mujeres, with two off-site visits, and wraps up on Sunday. Stay tuned for further coverage in Travelweek Daily.