With Roger Block, President, Travel Leaders Network

Open Jaw

The guy who put himself through college producing rock and roll concerts now runs a massive worldwide retail travel organization.

Where were you born? In Crawfordsville, Indiana. But the family moved to Florida when I was two.

How long have you been in the business? Since 1980 when I started a company called Travel Agents International. CWT purchased it in 1997. 

How many people work for you? About 200, both directly and assisting from our parent company. There are over 100 in marketing alone!

How many Travel Leaders locations are there now? Over 5,000.

And in Canada? Over 600. Plus, as of January this year we have an international division with only one hugely-successful agency per country. So we are now up to 75 countries.

What’s the best part of the job? Dealing with our members -- they are all so entrepreneurial and we see fantastic new business opportunities come up every day.

What did you want to be as a kid? After college I went into banking for 9 years – I thought I would always be in finance.

What was your first ever job? Mowing yards when I was 16. 

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?  Cave diving in north Florida.

Any guilty pleasures? Good wine. 

What’s on your tablet? I’m into classic rock and roll.

What do people not know about you? I put myself through college producing rock and roll shows. 

Any hobbies or interests? Travel, golf, woodworking. My latest is a built-in bookshelf. Definitely low-tech!

When are you happiest? Probably on a nice cruise, going to dinner with group of friends.  

What would you tell your 20-year-old self? “Your future life will be incredible.” 

Who do you most admire in the industry? That list is long! There is no one individual, I’d have to say basically all the retail travel entrepreneurs who have created – and re-invented -- their businesses over the last 20 years.

What skill or talent do you admire in someone? The ability to recruit outstanding individuals. 

What’s at the top of your bucket list?  Antarctica and a Kenya/Tanzania safari.

Ever had a brush with fame? I sat next to Arnold Schwarzenegger once on a plane. He was shorter than I thought but his shoulders way wider than I thought.

In an article in Travel Weekly last April you said you were “worried” about 2020 Do you still feel that way? Some of the challenges our industry may be facing are very worrying. The financial markets, the political landscape around the world, the upcoming presidential election and amount of negative discourse that will happen -- and unfortunately the fear that will be created. Plus lower interest rates may make consumers cautious about spending. The “known” you can plan for and mitigate. Right now there is so much that is unknown.

How do you spend your frequent flyer points? I don’t. I’m hoarding them for my retirement! 

What is your greatest extravagance? A good bottle of wine.

How do you stay fit when you travel? Try to go to the gym as often as possible. 

If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be? Clarity on NDCs.  It is literally crazy.

Do you have a favourite charity?  Three actually – Alzheimer’s, the American Cancer Society and my local church. 

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years? Seeing the world as a consumer. I look forward to that day. I fly all around the world for my job -- the worst was going to Paris for a day. In future I want to stay a while and enjoy wherever I am.

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