TL Network’s Roger Block & Christine James: “Agents Taking Control Of The Sale”

By Vickie Sam Paget

Roger Block, president at Travel Leaders Network and Christine James, vice president at Travel Leaders Network Canada.

When it comes to the rebound of the modern Canadian travel agent, the people at the Travel Leaders Network know a thing or two.

After all, the network is at the frontline of this resurgence in travel agent popularity, having attracted 42 new members in Canada this year and bringing its location count up to 700.

But why did it take the public so long to wake up to the inherent value of booking with a professional travel agent? And why are they wising up to the fact now?

OpenJaw sat down with Roger Block, the network’s president, and Christine James, the network’s vice president in Canada, during the company’s annual regional conference in Vancouver this week to find out.

“Everyone wants to save money, but at the end of the day when a problem happens – calling one of the dot.coms doesn’t work,” explained Block. 

“Consumers are finding out that yes, they can buy an airline ticket from point A to point B and probably not have problem with it, but if it gets any more complicated than that, they really do have a problem.”

The travelling public is finally latching onto the fact that travel agents can do far more than get them from point A to point B. They’re also starting to recognize the worth of the travel agent’s insider-knowledge, according to Block.

“This year we took our top agents on a Med cruise. There were so many specialty restaurants, but if someone doesn’t tell you about them so you can make reservations, your experience on ship won’t be as rewarding or as pleasurable. By working with a travel agent who can tell you that you need to plan now - and by the way I’ve been on board and that restaurant is great – your experience is so much richer.

“The difference is that client satisfaction when dealing with an agency is just so much higher. And I know that in both Canada and the United States, sales are going up, especially for the more premium products.”

It’s an increase that James has happily witnessed right here in Canada.

“It’s really nice to see that it’s not just the volume of passengers that’s increasing, but the average sale price is going up,” she enthused. “The average sale used to be $2,000 per person, but it’s now closer to $3,000 per person.”

She lays this leap in travel spend firmly on the travel agent’s doorstep.

“The agents are responsible. When a client comes in and asks for a three-star, they’re not just selling a three-star. In fact, I have members who say: ‘If you want to book a three-star, I won’t book it for you because I’ll never see you again. If you look at four-star or higher, I know that I can find something of great value and you’re going to come back to me.’

“It’s really nice to see the agent taking control of the sale, as opposed to just being an order-taker.”

Vickie Sam Paget

Vickie Sam Paget Western Correspondent

Hailing from the UK, Vickie Sam Paget is a travel and tourism storyteller located in Vancouver, BC. When she’s not on the road, creating engaging travel content or gazing at the North Shore Mountains, you can usually find her curled up with a good book or sipping a pint of the good stuff in her local Irish bar.

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