06 FEB 2017: The newly redesigned Travel Leaders Network is leaner, more efficient, and is aimed in driving success among its members, according to a group of executives in Toronto last week to discuss the benefits in its recent restructuring.

The largest seller of luxury travel, cruises, and tours last August combined Vacation.com and its other franchise groups under one banner, creating what company officials report as an organization to help its affiliate members make money while it attracts new customers.

The product: Travel Agents

“Our products are our travel agents,” noted one senior executive whose company of 450 employees is ready to assist members in solving their agency dilemmas from airfare and accommodations to wedding destinations and cruises.

Since the launch of the new TL Network on New Year’s Day 2017, the company reports streamlining its operations has resulted in efficiencies that have reduced office duplication and improved member benefits.

“We are a support team to our membership and we are a marketing organization but to waste resources and not use them efficiently as possible to the benefit of our members was not a wise decision,” said Roger E. Block, president of the TL Network which supports 7,000 organizations across the US and Canada.

Member agents, the company reports, can expect significant newfound revenue from the award-winning proprietary technology Agent Profiler which is in the new mobile-friendly website, CanadianTravelAgents.ca.

Agent Profiler + CanadianTravelAgents.ca

The Agent Profiler on CanadianTravelAgents.ca is a new lead generating website with Facebook-type “Agent Profiles” available to consumers seeking vacation tips and experts.

Agent Profiler is forecasted to create US $130 million in extra revenue.

“That $130-million is just to start,” noted Stephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer at TL Group on securing new clients, which he described as a “lifetime investment.”

Block explained, “Our data reveal that travellers are far more interested in connecting with a travel expert based on that agent’s knowledge and experience with a particular destination or travel interest specialty, rather than based solely on the agent’s physical location.”

Jose Ferreira, chief technology officer for Travel Leaders Network & Leisure Group, said that last year 100,000 leads were generated to members. “The aggregate close rate on the leads is 25 percent,” he said of the lucrative US$130-million lead generator programme.

“We are the only membership based organization really driving leads,” further explained John Lovell, president – Travel Leaders Network & Leisure Group who forecasted TL Network in its restructuring is expected to see a 40 percent growth this year in leads across Canada and the United States.

“With no other organization doing that, we are bringing new customers to our members which is why you are seeing people signing up for the new certification programmes.”

New Certification Programmes

Canadian affiliate members interested in certification programmes have four training programmes available to master their specialties. The intense paid programme is completed usually in one year providing travel specialists extra credibility in the competitive agent landscape.

“We have had an amazing response with 400 Canadian agents who have already signed up,” said TL Network’s vice president Christine James on the quick adoption of the new paid optional program which launched on January 9.

“Typically these certification programmes can cost up to $1000 and we are offering it to our members for $329 Canadian. Our members were looking for that certification, educational support that didn’t reside in our world prior to the transition,” she said.

Honeymoons/Destination Weddings

Four specialist training programs: luxury, leisure, active adventure, and honeymoon and destination weddings are designed to help clients choose the best vacation. Honeymoons/destination weddings has been the top accredited category. “Upward of 30 percent of Canadian weddings took place in a destination, so clearly there is a high demand for specialists in that area,” James told Travel Industry Today.

Through the training programmes like the Destination Weddings, agents participate in a personalized FAM trip to witness a wedding, meet with resort wedding planners and have that immediate personal contact with suppliers and resort staff.

“Imagine selling only one destination wedding, this will pay for itself,” said McGillivray on the cost-effective training programme.

2017 Trends

The company’s latest statistics released at last week’s press conference in Toronto indicates a strong start in 2017 bookings.

Over 77 percent of TL Network Canada members say 2017 bookings are higher than or equal to last year.

While TL Network executives admitted last year’s travel bookings had its challenges which were attributed to such factors as the US election, terrorism concerns, and higher airfare pricing in early 2016, the company CEO has recognized an uptick in bookings since the US election.

“Europe is notching upwards,” said Block and indicated there is a return to river cruising, as well as a double digit growth in escorted packages, an increase in Mediterranean cruises and other destinations. “Cruising to Alaska is booming,” he said describing many summer north to south cruises have already sold-out.

With over US $17 billion in annual sales volume, Travel Leaders Network is comprised of more than one third of North America’s leading travel agencies.  “If our members aren’t making money in growing their business we are not making money in growing our business,” concluded Lovell on the company business model.

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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