Despite a softening in the travel market due to the recent US government shutdown, TL Network officials say consumer confidence is back and the largest retail travel agency organization in North America is looking forward to a solid 2019, following on the heels of a successful 2018.
According to TL Network executives, who were in Toronto yesterday for a trade luncheon, 2018 saw great strides in technology, advisor education and training, marketing programs and partnerships – all of which led to a blockbuster year.
“The past year was another tremendous period of progress and achievement for TL Network,” said John Lovell, president, Leisure Travel, Supplier Relations and Networks, for Travel Leaders Group, parent organization of TL Network. “We continue to innovate and ultimately provide best in class service to our travel agency members which, in turn, is driving our continued growth.”
He added that the industry has seen a “renaissance of [travel] advisors being embraced” by travellers.
“We’re excited about that. There is so much information out there and travellers are turning to advisors for affirmation,” said Lovell. “At the end of the day they want that person to take them by the hand and walk them through that transaction.”
A recent TL Network survey revealed that 96% of those surveyed intend to travel in 2019, with 89% of those planning to spend the same as in 2018.
“Consumer confidence remains high,” noted Lovell, adding the organization has seen good growth across the board in both leisure and corporate travel.
Travel trends that are seeing good growth include the cruise market, which is “exploding,” long-haul destinations such as Asia-Pacific and Australia-New Zealand, as well as solo and group travel.
“We’re also very encouraged by what we’re seeing in the Caribbean,” said Lovell. “It has bounced back so quickly, it really speaks to the strength of the travel industry.”
On the technology front, during 2018, the company’s Agent Profiler online lead generation tool experienced 25% year-over-over growth in leads channelled to participating Canadian agents, resulting in 5,000 leads delivered.
Additionally, organic search traffic driving consumers to CanadianTravelAgents.ca increased 136% year-over-year.
For 2019, TL Network is introducing a new advisor education and training philosophy focused on learning pathways customized to an advisor’s personal achievement and career advancement goals. The company’s Learning Management System now includes 358 individual courses with more than 425 new Canadian users joining the system in 2018. Popular specialist programs include Group Travel, Luxury Travel, Active and Adventure Travel, and Honeymoon and Destination Weddings. Four Regional Conferences and 24 Mixers are scheduled for 2019 and will provide additional networking and learning opportunities.
On the marketing front, the company’s Distinctive Voyages program has grown to more than 4,200 departures worldwide and 18 cruise line partners.
The organization’s Canadian marketing engagement program has grown to more than 50 partners and during the past year resulted in more than 220 direct mail and e-mail campaigns and over six million partner funded pieces.
“We are excited to see significant growth in many areas of TL Network including our direct marketing efforts in Canada,” said Christine James, vice-president, TL Network Canada. “Our engagement program provides our advisors with beautifully designed marketing materials to inspire their customers and keep them informed about our latest offerings.”
Pictured are (l-r) Jeremy Van Kuyk, vice-president of Technology, Travel Leaders Group, Roger Block, president, Travel Leaders Network, James and Lovell.