Merit Opens “Consultative, Inspiring” Flagship Store In Downtown Toronto
Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw
Merit's new open-concept 2500 square foot office.
L-R: Julie Hoffarth, BDM with Allianz Global Assistance; Sera Fiorentino, a client of Merit's; Susan Brunt, guest.
Phil Sproul, CEO, H.I.S Merit Travel Inc.
L-R: Georgia Kourakos, Director, Exclusive Products with Merit Travel; Elvi Cal, VP, Product Developoment with TravelBrands.
Scott Baglole, Manager, Product & Marketing with Merit Travel.
L-R: Celia Dabremont, Allianz Global Assistance; Adrian Goveas, Marketing Manager with Allianz Global Assistance.
As Merit Travel CEO Phil Sproul puts it, “travel agents are a thing again.”
Now a new 2,500 square foot Merit Travel flagship retail store in the heart of downtown Toronto gives the company’s “been there, done that” agents an inspiring space to do their thing.
The nearly 30-year-old Merit Travel is billed as “Canada’s largest specialty travel company,” with a huge range of offerings ranging from hosted tours to golf and ski vacations, African safaris to corporate travel management.
“There’s so much travel booked online these days,” says Kristina Boyce, Merit Travel VP Sales. “That doesn’t make sense for what we sell. Travel is not a commodity. It’s emotional. It’s personal. Now we have a consultative, inspiring space where clients can plan their travels with someone they trust.”
Decorated with an earth-tone palate and filled with destination photos, the new retail location is in the heart of Toronto’s thriving downtown, where tens of thousands of high-income condo dwellers make their home. They’re an ideal market for Merit’s experiential travel products.
Leslie Góra, VP, Operations for Merit and a 40-year industry veteran, says the new storefront location, one floor below Merit’s headquarters, “represents who we are.”
“It’s a place where people can sit and enjoy time with their travel advisor in a casual setting. There’s a travel talk area where up to 20 people can attend supplier presentations, and comfortable spaces for families, groups and individual travellers to consult about their travel plans.”
There’s been lots of change at Merit over the past few years, after founders Michael Merrithew and Louise de Grandpré sold the company to Japanese travel giant H.I.S. Co. Ltd. in late 2016.
Under its umbrella, H.I.S. boasts about $2 billion in annual travel sales, and has since significantly expanded its Canadian presence with the acquisition of Red Label Vacations Inc., operator ofredtag.ca,itravel2000.com,The Travel Experts and TravelBrands.
Merit CEO Sproul says H.I.S. brings global clout and buying power, while allowing local management to run the business in the market they know best.
“We’re now a big player. The Merrithews did a fantastic job of building this company, and H.I.S. wants us to grow, both organically and by acquisition. It’s an exciting opportunity.”
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.