The Travel Agent Next Door (TTAND) honoured their top performing advisors and agencies Thursday night (May 14th) at a virtual awards gala.
The lively ceremony is usually held on a stage at TTAND’s annual conference in a sun-kissed destination each year, but on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event respected social distancing rules and unfolded on a web-based platform.
“I think they should be so proud of their achievements,” Flemming Friisdahl, president and founder of TTAND, told PAX, speaking on this year’s award winners. “I know how they’ve struggled to get here and how hard they’ve worked.”
Attracting more than 450 registrants – a mix of advisors and suppliers – the night honoured TTAND’s top achievers for 2019, including individual awards, ambassador and peer-to-peer support recognitions, and categories for highest insurance close ratio, highest insurance sales, highest average rate of commission, highest earned commission, highest percentage preferred and approved commission, and inductees into TTAND’s Millionaires Program.
While Friisdahl prefers to present these trophies live and in person, “this is the next best thing,” he said.
“You want to be able to see the look on the award winners’ faces, give them a hug, and say congratulations,” Friisdahl told PAX. “You know how hard they’ve worked for this, and how much energy they’ve invested. It’s better to do this than to not recognize them at all.”
The ceremony, which included key company updates, unfolded as the travel industry faces unprecedented challenges due to closed borders and government-imposed restrictions due to the coronavirus crisis.
Yet, despite the virus bringing the industry to a temporary halt, Friisdahl confirmed that TTAND has, in fact, not laid off any head office staff.
“We want to make sure we’re there to support the agents,” he said. “They may not be making money, but they’re still busy.”
For this year’s awards, TTAND, notably, still paid out its annual profit-sharing Partner Incentive Program, which amounted to $40,000 for 2019, split between qualifying branches who earned 70 per cent of commission on approved and preferred suppliers.
This rounds out the company’s year-to-date program total to more than $100,000 in payouts. "Without my partners, we wouldn't have a program," said Friisdahl.
“Even though we’re going through COVID-19, we’re still paying out our Partner Incentive Program. Last year, we had a good year,” he said. “We want to recognize agents for the hard work they’ve done. We need to be in this together.”
Throughout the pandemic, Friisdahl said TTAND’s priority has been to support advisors “as much as we can.”
“We’re making sure [advisors] are getting paid quickly with what commissions they do get,” he said.
(And contrary to belief, some agents are still selling some travel, he noted).
TTAND has also waived its annual fees for one year “to help lighten the financial burden,” said Friisdahl.
“We have an opportunity to build on our programs,” he said, noting the systems TTAND has put in place to help agents with chargebacks and to access Ottawa’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for financial assistance.
TTAND, right now, is focused on programs for advisors that “make life easier” and “help protect them as they sell travel,” said Friisdahl.
“People still want to travel,” Friisdahl added, sharing his outlook on the future of the industry after COVID-19 passes.
However: “It will be very, very slow,” he said.
Some airlines, such as Air Canada and Lufthansa, have already announced a gradual re-start to their operations.
“If they start flying, people will go,” said Friisdahl. “Eventually, people will fly.”
Friisdahl says TTAND has still achieved sales, even after the pandemic set in, but he doesn’t expect things to amp-up until at least September or October 2020.
TTAND’s Z.I.P. (Zero Interest Program), which gives travellers the ability to finance their travel over a choice of agreed upon time and payments, provides options that will appeal to travellers, post-pandemic, Friisdahl said. (See complete details here).
“What travel agents should be doing right now,” Friisdahl said, “is continuously talking to their customers. Talk, call, interact with your customers.”
The decline in travel begs the question of whether or not TTAND has lost agents in its network, either due to individuals switching careers or companies going out of business.
“We always lose three to five agents per month. It’s normal,” Friisdahl said. “That number hasn’t really changed today. Most people want to stay in travel. Even if it’s not going great, they want to take care of those travel credits they have and the clients they still have. They believe travel will come back. It may be different, but it will come back.”
And the winners are…
And so, without further ado, here are TTAND’s 2019 award winners.
Friisdahl was adamant on publishing everyone’s name because, in his words, “recognition is more important than anything else.”
Qualifying criteria for top performers for agencies were a minimum of $96,500 in commissions and a minimum of $75,000 in commissions for primary agents.
Top Performers 2019
Carol Baldwin – Agency - Magical Family Adventures
Cathy Wiechnik – Agency – Xcursions
Cindy Almond – Agency – Romance and Foodie Travel
Coralie Belman – Agency – Lets Get out of Here
Cory Tukeli – Agency – Promenade Travel
Cynthia Davidson – Agency – Beaches & Beyond
Elizabeth Rodgers – Agency – Journeys by Elizabeth
Jennifer Perry – Agency – The Travel Agent Next Door
Judi Oracheski – Agent – Gypsy Travel Group
Julia Lutchman – Agency – Evexia Travel
Kiki Lin – Agency – Kiki Vacations
Kim Friesen – Agency – Blessed Journeys
Kyla Coe – Agent – The Travel Agent Next Door
Leanne Unger – Agent – LJU Travel
Lee Ann Jensen – Agent – The Travel Agent Next Door
Liana Rowan – Agency – TripCo Travel
Mike Gilmore – Agency – Tailwind Travel
Renee Gancasz – Agency – Scratch the Map
Ruth Guiry – Agent – Guiry Travel
Scott Waldron – Agency – Gravitate
Sharlene Philipchuck – Agent – A Whole World To Travel
Sharna Crouch – Agent – Kala Travel
Shelley Cota – Agency – Shelley’s Sun & Sand Travel
Stacey Knight – Agency – Getaway with Compass
Steph Switzer – Agency – Exclusive to you Travel Services
Sylvette Deveau – Agency – Deveau Travel
Tannis Dyrland – Agency – The Travel Agent Next Door
Paula & Travis Stewart – Agency – Stewart Travel Group
Valerie Paton – Agency – BF Travel
Vivica Watson – Agency – PR Cruise Travel
Wendi Gladstone – Agency – Battlefield Travel
Wendy Harrison – Agency – Lakeshore Travel
Wilma Suurnakki – Agent – The Travel Agent Next Door
Individual Awards 2019
This was based on 2019 commission and actual commission received. Start date of agent didn't matter. Agencies had to achieve a minimum of $30,000 commission; primary agents had to earn a minimum of $7,500 in commission.
Silver/Gold Agents (minimum of $7,500 in commission)
Associate Agent (minimum of $7,500 in commission)
Ambassador Award (the business partner who provided the most agent referrals in 2019)
Karen Gill – Plan a Vacation
Peer to Peer Support (the business partner who was voted by you to have provided the most peer to peer support in 2019)
Highest Insurance Close Ratio
Associate agent – Jessica Chaisson – Stewart Travel Group
Gold/silver Agent – Susan Tuckey – The Travel Agent Next Door
Primary agent – Kyla Coe – The Travel Agent Next Door
Agency – Karen Gill – Plan A Vacation
Highest Insurance Sales
Associate agent – Frances Gertsch – Stewart Travel Group
Gold/silver agent – Susan Tuckey – The Travel Agent Next Door
Primary agent – Kyla Coe – The Travel Agent Next Door
Agency – Karen Gill – Plan A Vacation
Highest Average Rate of Commission
Associate agent – Alex Racey – Destination Dream Vacations
Gold/silver agent – Wayne Ashby – The Travel Agent Next Door
Primary agent – Lee Ann Jensen – The Travel Agent Next Door
Agency – Shalene Dudley – Latitude Concierge Travel
Highest Earned Commission
Associate agent – Anna Abbandonato – Exclusive to You Travel Services
Gold/silver agent – Terri Suomi – Acuity Travel
Primary agent – Sharlene Philipchuck – A Whole World to Travel
Agency – Travis and Paula Stewart – Stewart Travel Group
Highest Percentage Preferred & Approved Commission
Gold/Silver Agent – Sherri Nichols – The Travel Agent Next Door
Primary agent – Daphne Hart – You Go Girl Travel Club
Agency – Sandra Swash – Vacation Travel Group
Millionaires Program (recognizing those who have achieved their first or next threshold of the program).
Rising Star Level – 1-8 (for an agency who has achieved minimum of $125,000 in commissions from TTAND's preferred and approved suppliers.
Amanda Rauh – Travel By Amanda
Cathy Carter – The Travel Agent Next Door
Cathy Wiechnik – Xcursions
Christine Elliott – The Travel Agent Next Door
Coreen Doucett – The Travel Agent Next Door
Donnalea Madeley – Godmother Cruising
Jennifer Perry – The Travel Agent Next Door
Judi Oracheski – Gypsy Travel Group
Kyla Coe – The Travel Agent Next Door
Lori Oschanney – The Travel Agent Next Door
Margarita Montaner – The Travel Agent Next Door
Renee Gancasz – Scratch the Map
Sandra McLeod – Red Door Travel
Scott Waldron – Gravitate
Shalene Dudley – Latitude Concierge Travels
Silvia Fuchs – The Travel Agent Next Door
Suzanne Morgan – Where On Earth Travel
Tammy Jacobs – Sunscape Destinations
Vivica Watson – PR Cruise Travel
Wilma Suurnakki – The Travel Agent Next Door
Millionaires Program – Rising Star Level 9+ (for an agency who has achieved minimum of $375,000 in commissions from TTAND's preferred and approved suppliers)
Sharlene Philipchuck – A Whole World To Travel