Agents Choice 2018 EXCLUSIVE

If you encounter someone who doubts that Canadian travellers are opting to use travel agents instead of booking directly, let the numbers speak for themselves, reports assistant editor, Ann Ruppenstein in the 2018 Agents’ Choice Awards Readership Survey.

Take for example Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and U by Uniworld, where Michelle Palma, vice president, field sales – North America, points out that 95% of their business comes from the trade.

“Our travel agency partners are the cornerstone of our success,” she says. “We rely entirely on travel agents and travel advisors to recommend Uniworld and U by Uniworld to their clients.”

Over at Celebrity Cruises, Inc., the figures are equally impressive, with Ken Brooks, director, market sales – Canada noting that travel agent bookings represent north of 85% of total bookings.

“Travel agents are the heart of our business and our travel partners continuously help drive the success of our brand,” he says. “We’re always developing new initiatives and programs to improve our travel partners’ business and strengthen our relationship.”

With agents accounting for roughly 80% of global sales, Jonathan Hope, managing director, sales, North America at Rocky Mountaineer says the trade is considered an extension of their broader team.

“Travel agents are incredibly valuable to Rocky Mountaineer due, in large part, to the support they provide our guests throughout the booking process,” he says. “We are dedicated to establishing and maintaining strong relationships with our travel agent partners, so they can help us to create life-changing experiences for our guests.”

Similarly, Bruce Poon Tip, the founder of G Adventures, says the agent community has always played an integral role in the success of the adventure travel operator.

“In fact, in Canada, agent sales represent 50% of our business,” he says. “Our valued agent partners are an extension of the G Adventures family who champion our brand and the adventure travel space every day.”

With travel agents bringing in around 50% of air bookings and more than 70% of WestJet Vacations bookings, Jane Clementino, director, agency sales at WestJet says the airline is focused on implementing tools and options to help increase the productivity of trade partners.

“We want our partners to receive exceptional service from us,” she says. “We want to be easy to do business with so we can help our partners be profitable, get repeat business and gain lifelong clients.”

As the airline continues to expand into new markets and take delivery of new aircraft, she says the trade will remain a priority.

“The travel trade community will be an integral part of that growth so our partners can expect to receive the same level of care and appreciation from all of us at WestJet,” she says.

Although over 65% of bookings to Jamaica are made through travel agents, Philip Rose, regional director – Canada for the Jamaica Tourist Board says they are working to increase that percentage.

“We love and value agents greatly,” he adds. “Agents have a tremendous impact on business to Jamaica. Jamaica is such a diverse destination, it is important to match the client with the right resort or town experience. Good agents are able to do that, which results in clients having a blast and becoming repeat visitors.”

For the full story, check out the 2018 digital edition of the Agents’ Choice Awards Readership Survey.