TORONTO — The Travel Agent Next Door is ramping up its focus on the small agency segment with a new contest with a $19,000 value: full hosting for one year for one storefront travel agency. More details are at thetravelagentnextdoor.ca/free.
“What we have found is that an agency with $500,000 to $3,000,000 in sales [can] increase the amount of commission they earn as they are part of a bigger company, cut their overhead, focus on growing their business and let us focus on the back office,” said Flemming Friisdahl, Founder, The Travel Agent Next Door.
“As the travel industry continues to mature it will become increasingly harder for small agencies to continue to be viable for one simple reason: economy of scale. Big box agencies or OTAs are able to stay profitable because they are able to consolidate and find efficiencies that cut costs. Many agency owners are pulled in too many directions leaving them very little time to do what they obviously love to do, and that generates money, and that is sell travel.”
The $19,000 value attached to The Travel Agent Next Door’s new promotion covers the long list of expenses and administrative costs that small agency owners are all too familiar with. There are accounting system fees, marketing costs including direct mail marketing, email marketing, social media engagement and CRM and office costs including GDSs and telephones. The deadline to enter the contest is Oct. 15.
While just one storefront agency will win the contest, The Travel Agency Next Door’s agency support program is turnkey, says Friisdahl. “We have a complete phone system for an office of three people for $60 per month including faxing and toll-free numbers. We do all the reporting that is needed to meet TICO requirements [for Ontario agencies], saving most agencies the $3,500 for a TICO auditors report. We also bring comprehensive marketing programs including social media, print and electronics, as well as complete website solutions for $69 per month.” E&O insurance, as well as ACTA, CLIA, IATA membership are also included.
“There are other options than merging with another agency, or closing,” said Friisdahl. “They can still stay their own.”
While small agencies may just have a few employees each, they’re large in number, representing some 45% of the Canadian retail travel trade, according to estimates. They’ve been the backbone of the Canadian retail travel scene for decades.
Home-based travel agents have been the focus for The Travel Agent Next Door but the company also has 12 storefront locations across Canada. Some are branded The Travel Agent Next Door and others are using their own branding.
Talk of expansion into Quebec and the U.S. has been bandied about but for now the company is staying on track with its existing regions. Currently there are more than 320 agents who belong to The Travel Agent Next Door, across every province except Quebec.
“We have been extremely fortunate in English Canada, and it has kept us very busy, so I don’t want to take focus away from our present agents or our ongoing opportunity in English Canada. In the future, we will see,” said Friisdahl.
Many agencies feel they will make less in commission by hitching their wagon to a host agency. Friisdahl says he fights that misperception. “The agencies we have done a review with actually found out they made more money. Why? Because they retain 100% of the commission with 22 key suppliers like Transat, RCI or Holiday House and 85% (and this can go up to 90%) of approved suppliers like Princess Cruises and WestJet and WestJet Vacations. They also retain 80% (and this can go up to 85%) of all other suppliers.”
About 73% of The Travel Agent Next Door’s sales are with approved and preferred suppliers, he adds.
The Travel Agent Next Door has three programs – one for home-based agents, the agency support program and a program for new travel agents just coming into the industry. The Travel Agent Next Door plans to launch a new agents site in two months’ time.