ACV's Christine Faulkner
welcomes TTAND members to Bahia Principe Tulum.
Sunset at Bahia Principe
Palace Resorts BDMs Sharon
Wilson & Peter Tran with TTAND's Penny
TTAND members Alain & Jerry Goudreault enjoy the farewell dinner
at Moon Palace.
Penny Martin was so excited about welcoming guests to The Travel Agent
Next Door's 1
st ever National Meeting that she approached every bus
arriving at the sprawling, 2,400 room Moon Palace on the Riviera Maya.
“Are you TTAND?" she asked the 1st person off the bus.
“Tanned?" replied a pink-faced Brit. “Give us a couple of days, love. We just
If Martin, TTAND's 1st hire, was excited, you could imagine
the anticipation of company founder Flemming Friisdahl. After just 1 year in
operation, he did not picture himself hosting a gathering of 60 agents, staff
and suppliers at a 5 star Mexican resort.
“We weren't expecting to do our 1st national conference until
2017. But in our 1
st year we have attracted and selected over 150
agents, and companies like Palace Resorts and Air Canada Vacations made this
possible because they believe in what we are doing and are willing to invest in
The numbers are impressive. And during one day of the gathering, 4 new
agents signed on with TAAND back at home, the company's best day ever. But
Friisdahl says those aren't the numbers that matter.
“I'm extremely pleased with how far we've come in a year. We have 12
support staff now – a number we didn't budget for. We have over 150 agents. But
now it's not so much about growing member numbers. It's about growing sales. We
want to make money when our members sell travel, not from their fees."
Friisdahl says delivering sales to preferred suppliers and giving TTAND
members every opportunity to grow their home-based businesses are the key
priorities going forward. “What matters to suppliers is the amount of business
we give them. The power is in focus. We can't be everything to everyone, but we
can be a lot to a few."
Friisdahl's life partner Rhonda Stanley is a 35 yr. industry veteran –
25 years with Sears Travel -- who recently joined the company to create a new
agent development program. She says TTAND's focus on carefully screening those
who wish to join – whether new agents, existing independent agents or agency
owners, is what will lead to success.
“We're not a card mill. If we can't help people be successful we don't
want them. First and foremost you have to enjoy sales. And you have to understand
that when you work from home there's no start and no stop time."
Stanley points to studies predicting that over the next decade close to
80% of current agents will retire. Combine that startling figure with growing
demand among consumers for professional travel advice and Stanley firmly
believes that “there's never been a better time to join the industry."
From an observer's perspective, TTAND has attracted an enviable group of
members. The group at Moon Palace had a wide range of age and experience, but
shared a strong desire to learn and grow their business. They attended all
events and there was never a wait for stragglers on trips to site inspections
at other Palace resorts or to an ACV-sponsored site inspection and dinner at
the massive Bahia Principe complex near Tulum.
They were also enthusiastic about TTAND and the prospects it offers for
their professional and financial success.
“The resources Flemming and Penny have given us are amazing," says
Toronto's Gerald Mitchell, who moved into travel after a career in banking. “I
saw a video on Open Jaw that attracted me to TTAND, and they've done an amazing
job of support."
Markham's Coreen Doucett said TTAND's selectiveness is important to her.
“I think the difference is that every agent is qualified. They don't accept
everybody. As a result we have a group of motivated people who are eager to
learn and grow."
Another TTAND agent, Renfre's Bonnie Eady, spoke up during one of the
conference sessions to thank her colleagues. “This group is amazing. You are
casual, caring, helpful… just great."
For many of the attendees, who travelled from as far east as St. John's
and as far west as Gibsons, the gathering marked their 1
though there's an active Facebook group where information and assistance is
shared. By week's end many were fast friends.
“The camaraderie created by
this conference will push the company forward," said Friisdahl. “What a great
time we had."