TORONTO — As Vice President of TL Network Canada, Christine James has attended a countless number of the company’s Mixers since its very first one in 2007. But she doesn’t recall any being as uplifting and as exciting as its most recent one in Mississauga, Ontario.
Taking place Sept. 15 at The Vue EventSpace, the event marked TL Network Canada’s first in-person Owners and Managers Mixer in Eastern Canada since the start of the pandemic. Welcoming 12 suppliers and over 60 members – the most for any previous Mixer – the event garnered so much buzz that, for the first time ever in Eastern Canada, the company had to close registration two weeks early.
“The Mississauga Mixer far exceeded prior attendance records, which shows that our suppliers were eager to interact in person with our advisors after such a long 18 months of virtual events,” says James in an exclusive interview with Travelweek. “The key difference between this Mixer and others in the past is not just in the numbers of members and suppliers who showed their support, but the overwhelmingly positive energy generated throughout the entire evening compared to what we have typically seen in pre-pandemic times.”
Deana Murphy, Vice President of Sales, Sunwing Travel Group, also attended the Mississauga event, telling Travelweek that it was a “pleasure” to attend in person.
“Both suppliers and travel advisors were so excited to reconnect and talk travel while enjoying a wonderful dinner, tradeshow and informative presentations. I was so very happy to see and hear that many advisors are booked or are planning to travel with Sunwing on our ‘Do it Yourself Agent Fams’ this fall. Thank you to Travel Leaders for hosting such a wonderful evening!”
Similar feedback was shared by Lola Vassiliadeis, Owner/Manager of Cruise Holidays of Oakville & Lawrence Park, who said: “There certainly was a buzz in the room and everyone was very excited to be there. It was great catching up with some of my colleagues and suppliers in person. Seeing them on Zoom meetings helped but being with them in person meant a great deal and truly connected us. There’s no replacing that real-life connection. I left the evening with a happier heart.”
Hosted by both James and TL Network Canada’s Business Development Manager for Eastern Canada, Melissa Wheaton, the Mississauga event kickstarted another series of Mixers across the country, on now until the end of the year. Full COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place, with all guests required to show proof of double vaccination and wear masks throughout each event.
Member agents can register to attend an upcoming Mixer at www.AgentUniverse.com. The schedule of remaining Mixers is as follows:
- Sept. 22: Kitchener/Waterloo, ON
- Sept. 28: Halifax
- Sept. 29: Edmonton
- Oct. 5: Saskatoon
- Nov. 23: Winnipeg
- Nov. 23: Montreal
- Nov. 24: Ottawa
- Dec. 1: St. Catharines, ON
- Dec. 14: Vancouver
James, who’s celebrating 22 years with TL Network Canada this year, tells Travelweek that these Mixers have played an essential role in members’ success over the years. In the past decade, the company has hosted an average of 24 Mixers per year across Canada at premium venues, giving members the opportunity to mix and mingle with key suppliers, network, solicit ideas and share product information, all of which are more essential than ever in the midst of a pandemic and heading into the all-important winter season.
“Based on the advance sales reports for this winter, I am very encouraged by the positive trending compared to 2019,” says James. “Bookings have levelled off over the past four weeks for obvious reasons, with the rise in the Delta variant in addition to the distraction of the election. However, week by week we’re seeing a gradual move in the right direction. If this trend holds, we should see a decent recovery.”
With 22 years of experience under her belt, James is more than capable of leading TL Network Canada out of the pandemic. But she does admit that the challenges of COVID-19 are unlike any that the travel industry has ever seen.
“Like so many others, I’ve had to quickly adapt to the highly fluid industry environment but the most significant lesson I’ve learned is that absolutely nothing can be taken for granted,” she says. “All the logic and good sense that you used in the past that guided you in making the right decisions no longer applied. It was like creating a whole new rule book using what you were faced with on a daily basis to create the best possible outcome.”
When asked for her advice on how travel advisors can stimulate their own recovery, James says maintaining relationships will be key.
“Stay connected and engaged with your existing clients through phone calls, emails and social media, to let them know you’re ready and capable to start making their travel dreams come through,” she says.
“In addition, do the same with our advisors,” she adds. “Let them know that you’re there to support them for the long haul and remind them that we’re definitely closer to the end of what seems to be a reoccurring nightmare and that there are positive signs of light at the end of the tunnel.”