Steve Loucks, chief communications officer, Stephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer and Jose Ferreira, chief technology officer
The new year is starting out very well for TL Network: a new name (taking over from the old vacation.com), new services to members and a membership clearly jazzed about how sales are coming in.
“2016 was a bit of a challenging year,” Roger Block, president of Travel Leaders Network told a group of Toronto trade media last week, attributing the slowdown to the distractions of the election south of the border. “But we saw an uptick immediately after the election, with river cruising, escorted touring and Alaska cruises all showing strong sales.”
And if their members are right, it’s going to continue to be a banner year. A recent survey of the Canadian members, to which some 200 responded, resulted in over 80 per cent reporting cruise sales higher than last year and 82 per cent “optimistic about the coming year". Christine James, vice-president for Canada, says that agents are reporting that Europe is up an impressive 50 to 70 per cent over this time last year.
Block says that TL Network is a support and marketing system for the agents, and that includes education. In just three weeks, over 400 agents across the group have registered for one of the company’s four new certifications in luxury travel; active and adventure; leisure; or (the most popular) honeymoons and destination weddings. Each takes about 100 hours to complete, usually over the course of a year. “You are going to definitely be ahead of the pack,” says Block.
The group also prides itself in the amount of lead generation it provides to its members, which number some 7,000 across North America, from mom-and-pop shops to multi-branch chains. The new CanadianTravelAgents.ca helps consumers connect with travel agents based on their expertise and experience – and with a close rate of 25 per cent it’s “definitely a money maker”. The company is also up to 193 annual “engagement opportunities” or direct mail and other marketing tools, supported by co-op dollars from preferred suppliers.
“I look ahead a lot,” says John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Network & Leisure Group. “But I look in the rear view mirror too. And when I do I see our competition trying to catch us up!”