On the road to success with TL Network
With 95% of people polled in a travel trends survey saying they plan to travel this year – and 44% of these planning to take three or more trips – Travel Leaders Network (TL Network) and its members are more than ready to serve their needs.
TL Network, now in its third year as a unified enterprise and the largest retail travel agency organization in North America, is coming off a year of “unprecedented growth,” having expanded into 81 countries in 2019, and officials anticipate further growth this year.
Top officials from TL Network were in Toronto last week to share some travel trends and discuss all that’s new with the organization.
“We set the stage for a strong beginning to the new decade with innovative technology tools, an enhanced education and training program, increases in marketing and destination partnerships and growing engagement in meetings and events,” said Roger E. Block, president, Travel Leaders Network.
Last year, the agency organization added 283 new US members, including cruise powerhouse World Travel Holdings, Inc., and 28 new Canadian members. Year to date 2020, it has added another five new members in Canada.
“The Canadian team further expanded last year with the addition of a new sales manager, Kory Sterling, and new business solutions manager, Melissa Wheaton,” said Christine James, vice-president of TL Network Canada. “Both Kory and Melissa will play a significant role in the continued success of our network growth.”
In addition, TL Network launched a major international expansion signing new members in more than 80 countries around the globe. In 2018, the network had a presence in six countries.
John Lovell, president – Leisure Travel, Supplier Relations and Networks, for Travel Leaders Group, noted that the travel indusry is not slowing down, travel spending is up, and the need for good travel agents never more important, especially those with specific expertise, be it in cruise, destination or niche markets like wedding, adventure or luxury travel.
“As travel itineraries get more and more complex, travel advisors are more important than ever for the consumer,” he said. “Consumers are looking for more and more personalization. The travel industry really isn’t slowing down.”
A Travel Leaders Group Travel Trends Survey shows that 95% of those polled plan to travel in 2020, with 44% of these planning to take three or more vacations. Travel spend is also on the rise.
Lovell noted that travel is North America’s second-largest industry export, generating more $69 billion trade surplus. Travel delivers more than $2 trillion for the North American economy and supports more than 15 million jobs.
“Travel created nearly three time as many jobs in 2019 as the entire manufacturing sector,” he said.
One of the ways TL Network is positioning itself for success is by being responsive to the latest developments in the travel marketplace. Lovell painted an optimistic picture for the travel marketplace in 2020 driven by key trends, such as the explosive growth of the cruise industry, including the forecast that 32 million passengers will take a cruise in 2020.
“We create programs and products that highlight the value of using travel advisors and give our advisors an edge over the competition,” said Lovell. “Demonstrating the value of the travel advisor and increasing their profitability are at the centre of everything we do.”
No surprise, top destinations for Canadians in 2020 are Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Europe is also expected to be strong, with double-digit growth forecast for some destinations. Bucket list destinations include Bora Bora, Croatia and Dubai.
A major trend spurring the desire for curated travel includes the rediscovery of “Guided Vacations.”
“Guided Vacations have made a huge comeback, especially among millennial travellers who are looking for deeper insight and exploration,” said Lovell, adding that such experiences now offer more options off-the-beaten path in smaller, more intimate groups where all logistics are handled.
Last year, TL Network launched a number of new programs and marketing tools designed to assist agencies in marketing to and servicing clients.
For example, the organization distributed a consumer marketing video that promotes its Distinctive Voyages program to help agencies in selling the 839 departures on 10 cruise lines offered through the program. Distinctive Voyages is a Travel Leaders exclusive hosted cruise collection of sailings that features complimentary added amenities, such as a private welcome reception, an exclusive shore event and the expertise of a Distinctive Voyages host on board each sailing. Available cruise departures through the program have increased by 30% over 2019. Approximately 17,500 passengers sailed on a Distinctive Voyage in 2019 generating more than $50 million in cruise sales.
The SELECT Hotels & Resorts program, an exclusive Travel Leaders Group luxury amenity program, increased the number of hotels in its collection by 20% to include 1,542 properties.
Additionally, Travel Leaders Network members now have access to SELECT Villas, a newly launched collection of more than 2,000 private villas in more than 50 destinations throughout Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas, offering VIP amenities for clients and guaranteed commissions.
A new education program and Professional Learning Path with tiered-level workshops was unveiled at the EDGE 2019 Conference. This fall, TL Network plans to introduce a Continuing Education Units (CEU) Program designed specifically for graduates of any of the six Certified Specialist Programs (Leisure Travel, Business Travel, Luxury Travel, Honeymoon & Destination Wedding, Active & Adventure Travel, Group Travel). The CEU will take advisors even deeper into their designated niches and offer additional benefits for participants.
“The tiered education concept was a home run, and we feel confident that the targeted continuing education opportunity will be equally well received,” said Block.
On the technology front, the company’s Agent Profiler online lead generation tool surpassed targets generating 170,000 leads for participating agents. More than 8,300 advisors now have published profiles. Of these, more than 6,800 leads have been given to the 612 advisors with published profiles in Canada.
With last year’s launch of Profiler Plus, an enhanced version of Agent Profiler, advisors can now build a more robust profile to attract more qualified leads.
“We strive to stay one step ahead in providing our advisors with the tools and resources they need to grow their businesses and profitability,” said Block. “Our philosophy is to be a member-focused organization. We solicit ideas and feedback from our members on a continual basis and tailor our products and services based on their needs. We understand that if they are successful, we are successful and that’s a winning proposition.”