There’s no question that TravelBound puts travel agents first. According to Tommy Ryder, Head of Sales and National Accounts, the FIT specialist is a “travel agent only operator”, dealing exclusively with agents and only agents. And any company that puts this much faith in the agent community is definitely one to watch out for. In this week’s edition of Friday Five, we chat with Ryder about the benefits of FIT, agent incentives and the impact of Canada’s 150th anniversary on bookings.
1. As an FIT specialist, can you talk about the benefits of booking FIT over escorted tours? For both agents and consumers?
FITs are TravelBound’s business. We support agents by providing a wide range of product for custom FIT programs. This segment has been growing over the traditional escorted tour market in many regions as consumers have more confidence to be on their own and have defined interests based on their own research. Therefore, FITs allow the traveller to be flexible and do exactly what they want to do at their own pace.
With over 50,000 hotels and 8,000 sightseeing products, we have something to suit every traveller – from couples to families, friends, adventurers, and history enthusiasts. Our website segments sightseeing based on interest, and our marketing provides suggestions based on trending traveler types to support agents in creating the perfect “a la carte” package.
2.TravelBound recently offered bonus commissions for Wave Season and on Europe bookings. What was the response? And how important is it to incentivize agents?
In January, TravelBound kicked off the year with an explosive bonus commission offer for agents, granting them as much as a 3% bonus for bookings made in that month. Since then, we have seen a large increase in bookings to Asia over Europe, clearly showing that agencies are starting to see TravelBound as a real global operator. Another highlight for TravelBound has been the increased support from host agencies and independent contractors, who really benefited from the bonus commission.
We believe that incentivizing agents is an important way to reward loyalty. While our bonus commission offer is now over, we recently launched a new Amazon Rewards Program, offering agents to earn cash on bookings, loaded on an Amazon Gift Card. Our first incentive under this program just rolled out for March bookings, perfect for summer travel, and we have seen a favourable response across the broad.
3. In your opinion, what’s the hot destination for 2017 and why?
2016 was a challenging year, but 2017 is rebounding, and there is definitely more than one trending destination. The start of the year has seen a very high demand for pre- and post-cruise product, particularly in Vancouver, Florida, Amsterdam, and Prague. As such, we have ensured that we have enough product to enable agents to enhance and add value to their river and ocean cruise offerings. From the Canadian market, we are also seeing a strong demand for our beach products in the Caribbean and Mexico, and also to honeymoon destinations like the Maldives, Greece and Spain. Other trends we are seeing is a growth in experience travel particularly to Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland.
4. Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Are you seeing a spike in domestic bookings by Canadians as a result? If so, which destinations are proving to be the most popular?
We’ve seen a huge growth in domestic bookings to Canada, specifically Vancouver, Toronto and the National Parks in Alberta. This is in large part due to the exchange rate, as Canadians are opting to explore their own backyard and Americans are travelling north to see the great outdoors. We expect to see a spike in travel during the summer months, more so than any other year, and our Market Managers in Canada are working to ensure agents have the best hotel availability during this upcoming peak season.
5. What are your top three reasons for agents to book with TravelBound?
We are a proud “travel agent only” operator, meaning that we are 100% exclusive to travel agents. Consumers cannot book with us even if they tried. There are many suppliers available that sell directly to consumers and offer lower commissions to agents. We at TravelBound contract exclusively for the B2B market, and with over 200 market managers throughout the globe, we push to work with suppliers that will provide the best rates and availability to help agents in providing competitive value to travellers.
We make it easy for agents to book custom FIT programs via our award-winning website, marketing tools, promotional rates, account management, and our 24/7 on the road support for travelling passengers. As a partner to the travel agency community, we are always listening and adapting to the needs of agents to ensure they can focus on selling and letting us do the rest. Coming soon, we will have an enhanced booking site with further enhancements to support agents in their selling journey. We are with travel agents every step of the way.