Wednesday,  August 12, 2020  5:49 am

TTAND honours 2019 top performers at virtual awards gala. See the winners list here!


TTAND honours 2019 top performers at virtual awards gala. See the winners list here!
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

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.

From left (of TTAND): Rhonda Stanley, VP, talent development; Flemming Friisdahl, president & founder. (file photo)

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).

“We want to make sure we’re there to support the agents,” said Friisdahl. “They may not be making money, but they’re still busy.” (file photo)

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.

Looking forward

“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.

READ MORE: Lufthansa to resume flights to Canada with 3 weekly flights from Toronto

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). 

From left: Penny Martin, Shean Carmichael; Alma J. Ortiz; Flemming Friisdahl; Rhonda Stanley (file photo).

“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)

Arlene Gibbons


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 ProgramRising 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


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