Speaking to Travelweek at TTAND’s VIP Supplier event last night at the Fairmont Royal York, TTAND CEO Flemming Friisdahl said even he is surprised by how far the host agency has come in eight and a half years. Friisdahl founded TTAND in 2014 and that first year’s numbers (60 agents, 3 staff and $7 million in sales) underscore just how far the agency has come in a short amount of time.
TTAND has even outperformed its projected recovery at this point in the pandemic. In 2019, sales hit $165 million. After a very challenging 2020 and 2021 for the travel industry, Friisdahl says he didn’t expect a major bounce-back until 2023. The increase from 2019 to 2022 is a whopping 53.5%. “We’re really proud of our 2022 sales,” Friisdahl said to applause from TTAND’s top suppliers.
TTAND still follows its ‘Less is MORE’ approach when it comes to supplier partners. As Friisdahl notes, this year’s $255 million in sales is going to just 40 suppliers.
Looking ahead to 2023, he says TTAND is projecting $305 million in sales (“at a minimum”), with 1,200 agents supported by 50 staff. At the same time, he says, TTAND “will not increase its fees or charge extra for all that we bring to our agent partners.” Fees remain steady at $69 / month for Primary Agents, and $19 / month for Associate Agents. And agents still retain up to 100% of their commission.
During the pandemic, TTAND supported its travel agent members with everything from Zoom meetings (250+ and counting), to ongoing marketing support, to gifts, meals and emotional support for some 54 families in that first pandemic holiday season of 2020, when so many in the travel industry were struggling with no light at the end of the tunnel. TTAND also reduced its annual fees and start-up fees for three years. Some 250 of TTAND’s agent partners left the industry during the pandemic, but 450 new members joined TTAND, over the past 30 months.
TTAND agents stick by their host agency, in more ways than one. In 2021 TTAND switched from Ensemble to TL Network. An overwhelming majority of TTAND agents (96.4%) voted in favour of the move to TL Network. TTAND is part of a group of nine North American agencies taking Ensemble to task for what it says are overdue incentive payments, an allegation which Ensemble has denied. “The Travel Agent Next Door has become one of TL Network’s largest Canadian partners,” said Friisdahl.
NEW LOGO, NEW GROUPS PROGRAM, CONFERENCE & MORE
Last night’s event also included a look at TTAND’s updated logo, now with stronger colours and customizable taglines. A new B2B version of the logo includes the tagline ‘1,000+ agents strong!’ For the B2C version, TTAND agents can choose from 12 tagline options, to showcase their specialties to prospective clients. Sample taglines include ‘Europe and Beyond’, and ‘Oceans & River Cruises’. Or they can go with the standard logo, or even customize their very own tagline. “We want agents to be able to promote their specialty,” said TTAND’s Director of Marketing, Antje Splettstoesser.
Splettstoesser also highlighted TTAND’s Holiday Calendar event, a fun advent calendar-style promotion coming this December with supplier incentives and messaging for agents.
There was also news about TTAND’s new proprietary Groups program, allowing clients to reserve online, and manage their block of rooms / staterooms. The program also generates a custom manifest for the supplier, and more.
And TTAND’s Z.I.P. program got a shout-out too. The Zero Interest Program, in partnership with Flexiti and modeled after the popular Sears Travel payment program, offers the option of deferred or equal payments for three, six or 12 months.
The evening ended with a look ahead to April 2023 and TTAND’s annual conference, taking place at Majestic Elegance Costa Mujeres. There’s no conference fee for TTAND agents; “I don’t want to make money on conference,” says Friisdahl. In 2022 some 190 agents came out for the TTAND conference and in 2023 projected numbers put the total at 240. “For two consecutive years we’ve set the record for the largest IC conference held outside of Canada,” said Friisdahl. TTAND also just wrapped up its cross-Canada roadshows, with 12 events in all.