Toronto’s Strathcona Hotel provided the setting as The Travel Agent Next Door welcomed members of the travel trade to its third annual open house last night.
Company founder Flemming Friisdahl and Penny Martin, vice president, travel agent services, took to the stage to extend their thanks to suppliers and provide updates on what’s in store for TTAND – including its new lead generation program and extranet system.
“One of the big things that’s important to The Travel Agent Next Door is our partnership with our travel agents, with our business partners,” Friisdahl told PAX, “but also our suppliers. Without our suppliers, we wouldn’t be in business.
"We like to give an appreciation just before the season starts getting busy, and it also gives us an opportunity to tell them what we’ve developed… it’s really just a way of saying thank you before the Christmas rush. It’s an overview, a business review and appreciation.”
Martin gave those in attendance a closer look at the company’s Learning Library, which features an assortment of interactive courses that agents are required to take and pass. “Education is the most important thing for a travel agent’s success,” she commented. “We want to make sure they’re really prepared before they go in.”
Agents can earn points for everything they do in the Learning Library, with different rewards for different point levels – reflecting Friisdahl’s oft-repeated mantra of ‘win, win, win.’ “A win for the agents will be a win for suppliers,” he commented, “which will be a win for TTAND.”
Friisdahl noted that he deliberately chose to steer clear of referring to travel agents as ‘family,’ saying that the word didn’t accurately convey its commitment and attention to the agent community. “They are customers and partners, and our driving focus,” he remarked.
The event also saw the company unveil its comprehensive new lead generation program, which offers a detailed look at the total number of leads generated and each agent’s success rate; it also requires agents who have accepted leads to ‘action items,’ or follow up on leads by a specified date.
TTAND’s new extranet, meanwhile, is due to launch on Dec. 1, 2017, aiming to address the importance of communication for home-based agents spread across a vast area. As well as giving agents detailed supplier info and a new search engine, it will also introduce a new feature providing agents with an email informing them that they haven’t read their messages if they dismiss these upon logging in. Suppliers were encouraged to input event information for agents upon the system’s launch.
Penny Martin, vice president, travel agent services and Flemming Friisdahl, founder, The Travel Agent Next Door.
The new system will also see products divided into categories depending on what agents want to sell and their familiarity selling specific products; categories include no interest, none, I am familiar, I rock, and I’m an all-star. The company, Friisdahl said, does not issue IATA cards unless agents have passed the $10,000 sales benchmark.
Concluding the presentation, Friisdahl hailed TTAND’s progress, noting that its current roster of around 300 primary agents and 170 associate agents was significant. “Literally 37 months ago,” he said, “we didn’t have one.”
He reinforced the company’s commitment to Pencils for Kids, a charity for which it’s raised around $20,000 to date, and emphasized its strong relationship with suppliers - both at a sales level (78 per cent of sales come from preferred suppliers) and beyond.
“It’s not just about the money,” he concluded. “It’s also about the connections.”