TORONTO — If anyone knows the value in selling TravelBrands, it’s Gina Marcone.
The Transat Travel agent, based in St. Catharines, was the guest of honour at last night’s Agent Appreciation Event in Toronto, where she pulled up in style in a stretch limousine. TravelBrands’ President and CEO, Frank DeMarinis, then presented Marcone with a cheque for one million Loyalty Points before a crowd of 700 travel agents and 100 exhibitors.
As the winner of TravelBrands’ contest, during which agents earned one entry for a chance to win one million points for every online booking made, Marcone had these wise words to share: “Keep selling TravelBrands.”
“Keep selling #TravelBrands,” says Gina Marcone of Transat Travel, who just won 1 million TravelBrands points! Wise words, Gina, and congratulations! #travelagent #travelagents #travelindustry #bigwinner pic.twitter.com/MfEnb2JiPI
— Travelweek (@TravelweekGroup) April 1, 2019
Of course, this was the running theme at last night’s event, a message supported by news of TravelBrands’ latest technology-based products and new offerings from a long list of exhibitors, including platinum sponsors WestJet and Bahia Principe. Now in its fourth year, TravelBrands’ Agent Appreciation Event will also make stops in Ottawa, Quebec City, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver from now until April 10.
According to DeMarinis, these shows are a great way to help agents work smarter, not harder.
“We’re here to support the travel agent community 100%” he told Travelweek. “All of our initiatives, our thought process and everything we do at TravelBrands is to support this initiative. TravelBrands is for travel agents, plain and simple.”
DeMarinis adds that 100% of TravelBrands’ business comes from travel agents, and thanks to their loyalty and hard work, business in Canada has grown over 20% in the past year.
More growth is in the forecast following the acquisition of TravelBrands’ parent company, Red Label Vacations Inc., by Japan-based, multi-national travel company H.I.S. earlier this month. With branches in 70 countries and 158 cities worldwide, H.I.S. is expected to expand TravelBrands’ global presence as well as boost sales for agents.
“Perhaps you may not understand today what [the acquisition] means, but in the future you’ll definitely start to understand and reap the benefits of being part of an organization with a global identity,” said DeMarinis, who also noted that H.I.S. sought out TravelBrands to increase its global strategy for Canada. “Suppliers, our interline partners and hoteliers will all want to partner up with a company with this global identity.”
DeMarinis was quick to reassure agents that although ownership may have changed, nothing else will.
“That is the beauty of this acquisition,” he told Travelweek. “Nothing will change from the perspective of servicing our Canadian travel agents and their customers. I will continue to be president and CEO of TravelBrands, which means that all of my passion, my love for the industry, and all of my initiatives that I have for travel agents across Canada will continue to be deployed through TravelBrands.”
Nathalie Tanious, Senior Vice President, Commercial, also commended the acquisition, telling Travelweek that “we are now part of an international organization with incredible reach and great partnerships.” She added: “The buying power is just the tip of the iceberg. We now have the ability to provide agents with an even larger selection of products at the best rates in the industry. Overall, we are excited to start this next chapter of our story and continue to work smarter.”
Working smarter at TravelBrands means adopting new best practices and technologies. This includes a new deferred payment plan called Uplift, said DeMarinis, which gives clients up to 12 months to defer.
“Travel agents will be able to offer this to their clients, giving them an alternative if they’re maxed out on their credit card by applying for credit with Uplift,” he said. “The process itself is very seamless, just two to three minutes before getting an instant qualification on their credit score. They get a unique credit card number, which they then bring back to TravelBrands to book their product.”
Bruce Lidberg, Director of Sales, TravelBrands, outlined several other new enhancements at the company, including:
- Monthly Payment Plan: Available now for agents to offer clients, the plan applies to TravelBrands’ land-only and TravelGenie packages. “It’s a quick and easy process, and happens right through the normal booking flow,” said Lidberg, who also confirmed it will roll out with other product lines in the near future. “Everyone’s goal is to get more people travelling more often, and we certainly think this is a way of doing that.”
- Fraud Technology: TravelBrands has added new tools in its booking engine designed to help prevent fraud and detect fraud for agents. It takes the information that’s associated with a particular booking and gives it a fraud rating. “This will give agents that much more security when booking with TravelBrands,” said Lidberg.
- GDS & New Contest: This year TravelBrands expanded its Softvoyage partnership by offering TravelGenie packages through SIREV. Now, agents can build custom packages to worldwide destinations using their existing GDSs, meaning more choice and total flexibility. To celebrate, one travel agent can win $10,000 for themselves, plus $10,000 for their agency when booking at least two TravelGenie packages in the GDS between April 1 and June 30, 2019. Every additional booking serves as an additional entry.
- Cruise: A lot has been done to redesign TravelBrands’ cruise booking engine and make it simpler and easier to look at. According to Lidberg the company has added new functionality by way of filters, “making it that much easier to find the right cruise for your client.”
- Air: Another area that TravelBrands is always focusing on, said Lidberg, is how does it make it easier for agents to book air? “We’re giving more ability to agents to work on their file, any time of day or night when they need to,” he said. This includes making special requests for wheelchairs and special meals, and even voiding or cancelling files without the need to call in to the company.
- Access: TravelBrands’ new app gives clients access to their itinerary directly from their phones, and allows the company to contact them within the alerts or announcements. It also allows clients to not only look at product but also add product to their file directly through the app. “Anything they add to their file through the app is going to get credited to the original booking agency,” said Lidberg, “so we think agents will be very keen to promote this.”
- Bucket-list Vacations. According to Lidberg, TravelBrands will be focusing on promoting Bucket-list Vacations over the coming weeks and months. Exotik Journeys, part of the TravelBrands’ umbrella, has a new ‘Bucket List Vacations’ catalogue, which Tanious told Travelweek agents will love. “From the Great Wall of China, to a cruise around the Galapagos, we’re compiling an epic must-do list of travel experiences.”
- “We got your back”: The company’s 24/7 support service for travel agents “makes TravelBrands really stand out,” said Lidberg. “Every e-ticket that we send out has the contact information for this department on it. It doesn’t matter what time of day, where in the world your clients may be, there is always someone there to assist them.”