TORONTO — Just how important are travel agents to Trafalgar? The retail distribution channel is crucial for the travel company, especially in Canada where 85% of Trafalgar bookings now come through travel agents. It’s no wonder Trafalgar is boosting its offering to travel agents, with news about the company’s revamped booking engine, a new partnership with ACV and more helpful sales tools for retailers highlighted at last night’s 2018 Britain & Europe launch in Toronto, hosted by Brett Tollman, CEO of The Travel Corporation, and the Trafalgar team.
It’s been a strong 2017 for Trafalgar, with sales up 19% from this market, said Wolf Paunic, President, Trafalgar Canada.
While the company is proud of its successes, “tonight is more about what we can do with you and for you to continue the success in 2018,” Paunic told retailers.
“We want to give you the tools to make your life effortless. We want to make your sales pitch authentic. And we want to make your job fun.”
Trafalgar’s new and improved booking engine, with air quotes in real time, is one of many recent Trafalgar upgrades that got a hearty round of applause from the crowd. “Agents tell us, ‘I’m so busy, I don’t want to be put on hold’,” said Paunic. “With our new and intuitive web booking engine it’s easier and faster for agents to make their bookings, and all air quotes are given in real time or super quickly.
“Agents can spend less time processing and more time selling.”
Paunic added that Trafalgar wants its retail partners to feel confident in their relationships with their clients. To that end, he said, “you have our solemn promise that we’re not using your client’s information for anything that would exclude you, the agent.”
Trafalgar is inviting agents to use its consumer e-reviews as a sales tool, especially for those clients who do the bulk of their travel research online. Trafalgar’s e-reviews make the company and its tours “100% transparent” and are now sort-able, offering ease of use for travel agents looking to bolster their sales pitch with feedback from Trafalgar guests. “You can now sort by destination or city. These reviews are as useful to agents as they are to guests,” said Paunic, adding that the company has garnered a 97% satisfaction rating from some 15,000 users.
In keeping with the trend to user-generated content, Trafalgar’s 2018 Europe & Britain brochure uses images submitted by Trafalgar guests, exclusively. “The days of stock photos are over,” said Paunic. Guest anecdotes also appear throughout the brochure. “Is the age of the paper brochure over? Some of us know it’s not,” he added.
Trafalgar also wants agents to join its Trafalgar Academy, launched earlier this year and now offering a single sign-on valid across all brands as part of the TTC Agent Academy. “There is a need for education,” says Paunic. While Trafalgar’s ‘sweet spot’ is travellers in their 50s and 60s, the average age of a Trafalgar guest is 47. Agents might also be interested to know that Trafalgar’s offshoot brand, CostSaver, attracts both younger travellers and also more savvy travellers. Trafalgar’s top sellers so far this year are Italy, Ireland and Spain.
The Travel Corporation has more than two dozen brands in its lineup but Trafalgar is one of the mainstays, celebrating 70 years in 2017. “We’re proud of how relevant, and how enticing Trafalgar’s messaging is. And how relevant the experiences are,” said The Travel Corporation CEO Brett Tollman.
The brand also wants to stay nimble and active, especially in its dealings with the trade. Trafalgar is aiming to answer just about every bit of feedback it gets from its retail partners, and its guests. “We hear travellers saying they want richer, deeper experiences on every trip. So we’ve added more Be My Guest experiences, and also the VizEat program, which offer optional culinary excursions. They’re optional because there are smaller numbers with VizEat but they’re very valuable experiences for your clients,” said Paunic.
Paunic also addressed the issue of free air promotions. “One thing we hear from agents is ‘I hate mythical free air deals’. If we’re rolling out an offer we want to make it truly available from all gateways across Canada,” he said, adding that new web fares and tactical air offers will be rolled out this November.
A new partnership with Air Canada Vacations, announced last night, gives retail partners the chance to sell bundled Air Canada air “with a few perks” with Trafalgar product, on more than a dozen tours, said Paunic. “We are supremely excited to be working with Air Canada Vacations,” he added. Sister company Contiki also announced a partnership with ACV, at an industry event on Oct. 10.
Trafalgar also wants to help agents close the sale. This is the first year that CostSaver will offer dynamic pricing, “so agents can show their clients the prices and say, this is the price if you book now, and if you wait it will go up.”
Trafalgar is also looking to guarantee more departures. “Here’s something else we hear from agents: ‘I seriously hate it when trips are rescheduled’. We have worked on our yield management – it’s not perfect but it’s really been optimized.” Paunic notes that all Discovery programs for 2018 are all guaranteed, adding that “there’s been a huge revival in the multi-country trips. Also guaranteed are the 2017/2018 Autumn, Winter & Spring program, and the 2018 Hawaii program.
Last month Trafalgar invited agents to join what it calls its ‘Trafalgar Tribe’, with an added incentive: agents can earn a simple $50 booking commission voucher per booking until Dec. 31, 2017. The voucher is applicable with all 2018 Europe and Britain trips and valid on all bookings departing until Dec. 31, 2018.
“You are our key partners and we are here for you and looking forward to a great 2018,” said Paunic. “Let’s stop talking and starting doing #AgentsFirst. We want to optimize the strengths of all our partners.”