Now in its third year as a unified enterprise, TL Network, led in Canada by vice president Christine James, is celebrating a record 2019 year, after expanding into 81 countries and adding new domestic agencies.
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During a recent visit to Toronto, Roger E. Block, CTC, president, Travel Leaders Network, John Lovell, president, leisure travel, supplier relations and networks, Travel Leaders Group, and Christine James, vice president, TL Network, discussed several key updates and milestones for the company.
In 2019, the agency organization added 283 new U.S. members, including cruise powerhouse World Travel Holdings, Inc., and 28 new Canadian members. Year to date 2020, it added five new members in Canada.
Lindsay Pearlman, former co-president at Ensemble, also joined the team at TL Network back in July 2019 as senior vice president, international leisure, which was a newly-created position within the company.
Record agency growth
In the past year, TL Network also launched a major international expansion signing new members in more than 80 countries around the globe.
In 2018, the network had a presence in six countries. Now, Travel Leaders Network, in partnership with sister company, Travel Leaders Corporate, is competing for multi-national corporate accounts by offering personalized local service combined with the backing and resources of a large enterprise. Dozens of agencies from Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia have joined TL Network as members since the expansion initiative began early last year.
Currently, Travel Leaders Network holds 30 per cent of the market for agencies earning in excess of $10M.
As the company continues to grow, Lovell stresses that now more than ever, travel agents are essential to the consumer booking process.
"As travellers become more complex, advisors are important to the consumer, because you can go online and search, but it adds to the confusion," Lovell said. "Travellers are looking for expertise, and that's where the role of the agent comes in. A travel advisor brings professionalism to that equation."
Responding to consumer demand
According to a recent study by the Travel Leaders Group, this year, 57 per cent of travellers are planning on spending more money. Most clients are booking six to seven-day trips (43 per cent), followed by eight to 10-day trips (27 per cent), and four to five-day trips (15 per cent).
Over on the cruise side, CLIA predicts that 32 million people will take a cruise in 2020, up from 30 million in 2019 and 19.1 million in 2010. One hundred new cruise ships are expected by 2027, including 19 new river cruise ships, 13 expedition ships, and eight new mega ships.
As far as top-selling destinations for Canadians go, Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic (in this order), come out on top, but overall, Europe is reporting double-digit growth year-over-year.
Guided vacations have also changed a lot over the years, and TL Network says that Millennials are by far the leading source market for these kinds of trips, as they are after one-of-a-kind experiences and adventure that goes beyond a resort. Guided trips also offer more options for off-the-beaten path in smaller, more intimate groups where all logistics are handled seamlessly.
Millennials are also much more interested in a bleisure trip, in compared to GenX; 70 per cent are likely to extend a business trip by one or two days to simply enjoy the destination.
Take a look at what's new
A number of new programs and marketing tools were launched to assist agencies in marketing to and servicing clients.
- A consumer marketing video that promotes its Distinctive Voyages program to assist agencies in selling the 839 departures on 10 cruise lines that are offered through the program; available cruise departures through the program increased by 30 percent over 2019.
- The SELECT Hotels & Resorts program, the exclusive Travel Leaders Group luxury amenity program, increased the number of hotels in its collection by 20 per cent to include 1,542 properties.
- Travel Leaders Network members now have access to SELECT Villas, a newly launched collection of more than 2,000 private villas in more than 50 destinations throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas, offering VIP amenities for clients and guaranteed commissions.
- A new education program and Professional Learning Path with tiered-level workshops was unveiled at the EDGE 2019 Conference.
- This fall, the organization plans to introduce a Continuing Education Units (CEU) Program designed specifically for graduates of any of the six Certified Specialist Programs (Leisure Travel, Business Travel, Luxury Travel, Honeymoon & Destination Wedding, Active & Adventure Travel, Group Travel).
For more information on the latest developments from TL Network, agents can visit TravelLeadersNetwork.com.
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