TORONTO — The transformation of the retail travel industry has seen the sector go “from one of employees to that of entrepreneurs,” says the brand new Marketing Director at The Travel Agent Next Door, Antje Splettstoesser.
“Travel advisors are passionate and committed to the industry and their profession and are truly in it to win it,” she adds.
Travelweek caught up with Splettstoesser for a quick Q&A just as the announcement came out about her new role with TTAND. The appointment took effect Sept. 1.
Best known from her years as Director, Canada for the German National Tourist Office (GNTO) and Vice Chair at the European Travel Commission (ETC), Splettstoesser is returning to the travel industry after becoming mother to a baby girl in 2019, and a role at the Heart and Stroke Foundation. She also taught tourism sales and marketing at Humber College.
TTAND Founder and CEO Flemming Friisdahl says: ““We are very excited to have Antje join our team. Having just become 1,000 agents strong, we believe Antje will be a critical part of our leadership team in guiding the company and our agent partners into the post pandemic era. She has a tremendous amount of travel industry experience that we will be able to draw on.”
Friisdahl adds that TTAND “has always felt that marketing is a very important aspect of selling travel, and this is why we have invested, since we started, in having the largest host agency marketing team and the results are showing. With our sales up 55% from 2019, we are very excited for the future.”
Why does Splettstoesser see so much potential in the home-based / independent travel advisor sector, and why is she so happy to return to the travel industry? Read on …
Travelweek: Welcome back! The industry will be thrilled that you’re back. It’s been just over four years since your time at the GNTO. What are some best practices that you learned in your work with the GNTO that you’ll be bringing with you to your new role at TTAND?
Splettstoesser: “I love connecting with people, and being with a tourist board is all about creating meaningful relationships with government, partners, suppliers, tour operators, agents and of course the media. I look forward to reconnecting but also to establish new connections – especially with all our passionate travel agent partners.”
Travelweek: What are you most excited about re: joining TTAND?
Splettstoesser: “Since my departure from the industry, I have been intrigued by the transformation of travel. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the retail sector and the shift to home-based / independent travel professionals. TTAND has been at the forefront of this change with their MORE program, creative marketing solutions and an unwavering commitment to servicing their agent partners. I now look forward to contributing to the company’s future success and supporting over 1,000 agent partners.”
Travelweek: Pre-pandemic, there was tremendous growth in the home-based / independent travel advisor sector, and many host agencies saw membership numbers climb even during the pandemic. Do you see home-based continuing to grow and why?
Splettstoesser: “I absolutely believe that the numbers will grow. The industry has transitioned from one of employees to that of entrepreneurs. Travel advisors are passionate and committed to the industry and their profession and are truly in it to win it. This makes the model of a host agency not only sustainable but also highly accessible to anyone, whether they are new to the industry or experienced.”
Travelweek: What did you miss most about the travel industry?
Splettstoesser: “Where do I start? EVERYTHING! While I left the industry for a personal reason, which just turned 3 years old this summer, I have never left travel. It is part of my soul and my family was one of the brave ones to continue to travel throughout the pandemic (never had so many rows for myself and a toddler on a Boeing!). The pandemic-induced restrictions have certainly opened my eyes to how much I need to be connected to travel, personally as well as professionally. And getting back to the relationships: the industry always felt like a family to me. What could be better than to return to good friends you’ve made along the way?”