Robert Lambert at their new offices in downtown Toronto
David McCaig, President & COO, ACTA & Phil Sproul, President, Kensington Tours
Punam Pathek, President Go Go Vacations; Jill Wykes; Bryan Klompas, E.V.P.
Sunquest Vacations & Brian Brodber
That was the refrain sung by Flemming Friisdahl and his Travel Agent Next Door sisters and brothers at an open house last week. Flemming was eager to show his appreciation to all - from his wife, Rhonda, to all the suppliers and industry colleagues who supported him through the embryonic stages of his new retail operation.
On hand to greet guests were new staffers Robert Lambert, Supervisor Travel Agent Services; Nancy Aube, V.P. Operations & Finance; Bernadine D’Souza, Manager Training & Development; Nathalie Nelson, Agent Support and of course, Penny Martin, V.P. Agent Experience.
“If it wasn’t for the close knit travel community stepping up to support one another, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Flemming during his opening remarks.
Only 3 months into the launch of the new operation, The Travel Agent Next Door has enlisted 30 agents “without a hard pitch”. According to Flemming “the proposition we offer is unique. From the marketing programs to something as simple as the dedicated phone line each agent can have right in their home.”
Talks are ongoing with 128 additional prospective members.
One of the interesting aspects of the business is that it is not only geared to home based agents. Entire agencies are looking at affiliating themselves with the Travel Agent Next Door program. According to NACTA, this type of relationship is a growing trend.
In a recent Open Jaw article, Ann van Leeuwen, President of the National Association of Career Travel Agents stated “We are seeing an evolutionary trend in which some smaller brick and mortar agencies are turning all or some back office functions over to host agencies and focusing their attention on selling travel. Smaller agencies also are reducing their numbers of employed agents and opting to work with fully independent or hosted consultants.”
From the supplier turn-out at the open house for the next door agent, there is a great deal of support and enthusiasm as to the future of the evolving independent agent.