Christine James considers 20 years of change in travel retailing
After two decades as a leading light in the Canadian travel industry, Christine James of the Travel Leaders Network has seen some major evolutionary changes in the world of travel retailing. And she has been a significant participant in the movement of stand-alone agencies toward the umbrella of agency collectives and consortiums.
Recently, James took the opportunity to look back on those two decades of experience, sitting down with Canadian Travel Press, to talk about how those changes have benefited travel retailers and shifted the process of travel selling.
“It’s no surprise that the industry and the consortium model have evolved drastically over the past two decades,” says James, who is the vice-president Canada for the TL Network. “The way suppliers manage their partnerships with consortia, as well as retailers as a whole, has changed, and all parties have had to adapt to that change in order to remain relevant.”
Technology has been a key element to surviving and thriving in the tough travel retailing market, and James confirms that technology has had a massive impact on the way that consumers source and purchase their travel, as well as the ways that travel advisors process those transactions on behalf of their clients.
“The key to the success of any industry, but the travel business in particular, is not only to be able to adapt to the rapidly changing dynamics, but to use technology to our advantage to deliver new customers to their members/travel advisors – in addition to making it easier for the travel advisors to process those transactions in a user-friendly manner.”
One of those pieces of tech by the TL Network that has proven to be a great partner in the service of completing transactions is the Agent Profiler tool. It is one of many solutions in the consortium’s electronic tool kit that has proven extremely useful, and has also benefited from recent enhancements.
“Agent Profiler has been by far our biggest win. We’ve delivered over 6,000 leads to our 600 agents that have published profiles on www.CanadianTravelAgents.ca. That’s up over 50% from last year! The tool allows our travel advisors to publish multiple profiles, which triples the amount of leads they receive.”
Tech benefits like these have played a role in generating new member agency enrolments for the Travel Leaders Network. During 2019, 26 new Canadian members were added to the roster, including 16 in western Canada and 10 in eastern Canada.
“We’re on track with our network growth projections across the Canada, and our network in the US is also tracking above our projections,” she said.
And James made special mention of contributions made by the new position of sales manager Canada, which was added in July this year. She credits Kory Sterling with doing “a phenomenal job” of recruiting new members across the country since joining the consortium.
As well, a total of nine new suppliers ranging from niche market to destination partnerships have been added to the TL Network.
These numbers all help to confirm that travel retailing by professional consultants is far from obsolete in the face of online buying options, and is actually picking up momentum.
“It’s a proven fact that the value of dealing directly with an experienced travel advisor far exceeds buying online, especially when it comes to more complex and bucket list transactions,” says James.
And she added: “To further support that demand, TL Network offers a comprehensive training library consisting of live webinars, on-demand sessions, as well as specialists certification programs to prepare our travel advisors to better serve that market.”