“Ships are in the water, planes are in the air,” as John Lovell, president of the Travel Leaders Group, put it at a virtual press conference on Tuesday (Oct. 19).
“The business is coming back.”
Optimism is in the air this week as the Travel Leaders Network (TLN) kicked off its international conference, EDGE (Educate, Discover, Gather, Evolve) on Oct. 18, highlighting fresh perspectives on the travel industry’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The training and networking event, which runs until Oct. 21, is being held in person for the first time since 2019, drawing more than 1,400 travel advisors and partners to Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.
“It’s a very emotional time for a lot of people,” Lovell said, noting the “tough road” and “long, long ride” the industry has endured after some 19 months of pandemic-related challenges.
But business is returning, he said.
“The enthusiasm around that is really high and you can almost feel it in the air,” he said, referring to the vibe at this week’s conference in Florida. “It feels very good.”
“Yes, we still have a pandemic going on, but we’ve figured out how to live with it.”
A “huge win for us”
It’s been quite a week for TLN as The Travel Agent Next Door (TTAND), on Oct. 18, announced that it will join the network on Nov. 1.
In a news release issued by TTAND this week, 98 per cent of partner agents voted in favour of the move.
“We spent numerous months researching the consortium to see if TLN would be the right fit for the Canadian host agency. The main program incentives which ultimately felt right for TTAND to make the move were the exclusive cruise program, the extensive hotel program and the valuable marketing materials,” said Flemming Friisdahl, founder and CEO of TTAND.
Christine James, vice-president at TL Network Canada, called the deal a “huge win for us.”
“We’re doing very well on the recruitment side in Canada,” James said on Tuesday, noting how the network has gained 38 new members in 2021, bringing the total number to more than 700 members in Canada.
“We’re really happy.”
Partnering with TTAND "allows us to continue to provide leading marketing, technology and support for our Canadian members while evolving to meet the needs of the market," said Roger Block, president of TL Network, earlier this week.
"TTAND is an icon in Canadian travel and we can’t wait to be a part of their continued success,"
Distinctive Voyages return
As the 2021 EDGE conference enters its final days, TLN revealed that its Distinctive Voyages hosted cruise program is returning with new additions.
Distinctive Voyages is a TLN exclusive hosted cruise collection of sailings that features complimentary added amenities, including the expertise of a Distinctive Voyage Host on board each sailing.
Distinctive Voyages cruisers will also be offered a private welcome reception (based on social distancing measures) and an exclusive amenity.
“Cruise ships are back in the water, and travellers couldn’t be more delighted,” said Block yesterday. “Travel advisors also have unprecedented opportunity to sell cruises, but there is a lot of noise in the marketplace. Distinctive Voyages gives them a can’t-get-it-anywhere-else opportunity to sell to their clients. It turns a cruise into an elevated river or ocean vacation.”
Distinctive Voyages’ first sailing since the pandemic left on Sept. 26, 2021, and 19 Distinctive Voyages sailings are scheduled before the end of the year.
Passengers on these cruises have a host, receive a shipboard credit and are given a “bon voyage bottle of wine” in lieu of a welcome reception due to social distancing rules.
In 2022 and 2023, there will be 578 Distinctive Voyages going to 30 countries and 47 ports of call.
Distinctive Voyages’ partners are:
- Celebrity Cruises
- Crystal Cruises
- Cunard Line
- Holland America Line
- Oceania Cruises
- Princess Cruises
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises
- Silversea Cruises
- Windstar Cruises
Passengers on these cruises will be able to take part in curated shore events on 10 of the cruise partners and receive shipboard credit on select lines.
“For instance, in 2022, we are offering a ‘Husky Homestead’ excursion as part of the land portion of a Princess Alaska cruise. Distinctive Voyages passengers can get up and close with sled dogs and really get to know the culture of Alaska on a deeper level. And of course, excursions like this are a very attractive selling proposition for our travel advisors,” noted Block.
In 2022, Distinctive Voyages’ Private Car and Driver option will be offered on 16 Distinctive Voyages sailings.
This puts the services of a driver at the disposal of a traveler for one day – the passenger can use the driver for a guided tour or be driven around as they wish.
Enhancements to Agent Profiler
TLN’s lead generation program, Agent Profiler, also has additional enhancements.
Agent Profiler now offers a remote agent locator, allowing a travel advisor to update their location from wherever they are currently working.
“This is especially valuable for brick-and-mortar agencies, who might have employees currently working outside of the office’s geographic area,” TLN said on Tuesday.
Agent Profiler offers an easy video appointment booker, requested by both travellers and travel advisors to accommodate social distancing measures and schedules.
With one click of a button, a user can set up their consultation with a travel advisor of their choice and Agent Profiler will host the video visit.
People searching for a travel advisor on Agent Profiler have two new pieces of information available to them: years of experience and a Book with Confidence badge.
Advisors can list the number of years they have been a travel advisor and if they've completed TLN’s award-winning Book With Confidence program (a badge is added to their profile).
For independent advisors, Agent Profiler will display the agency name on search results, along with their host agency.
“This allows that agent to continue to build their own brand,” TLN said.
Finally, TLN is allowing advisors to turn off leads temporarily.
“This allows the advisor to take time off without having to worry about a backlog of leads,” the company said. “The advisor’s profile will remain up, although they will not be able to be called, and users will see a customizable note that they are not open to new leads at the moment.”
2023 could be big
The travel industry’s recovery, supported by rising vaccination rates, is obviously different in the United States compared to Canada, which still has some of the strictest testing and border measures in the world.
Still, as an industry, there is a lot to look forward to as new aircraft, hotels and cruise ships continue to be built, Lovell said Tuesday.
The year 2023 could “obviously be a stellar year for all of us,” he said. “I’m really encouraged by the future.”