Hitting the Jackpot: TTC Tour Brands Thank Advisors at Casino-Themed TA Appreciation Day Event

Rolling the dice on a night of celebration - these travel advisors are all in!

Greater Toronto Area travel advisors placed their bets and played the odds at TTC Tour Brands' casino-themed Travel Advisor Appreciation Event for National Travel Advisor Day on 03MAY at the Arcadian Court, and Open Jaw was there to capture the excitement.

Advisors, including specially-invited top TTC sellers from every province across Canada, started the evening with $300 in chips and then wagered, rolled, crossed their fingers, and doubled down in the hopes of increasing their pot. They were able to exchange their chips for raffle tickets to try their luck at winning a special gift bag from one of the tour operator's six brands.

Travel Only's Amanda Beaver was all smiles at the craps table.

"It has been a really transitional year for us at TTC Tour Brands. Coming out of the pandemic is one thing, but we've also reorganized all of our six tour brands under one umbrella and we just wanted to say a big thank you to all of our travel partners for sticking with us and for supporting us," Melissa DaSilva, President, TTC Tour Brands, told Open Jaw at the event.

A critical 80 to 85 per cent of sales at TTC Tour Brands are attributed to the trade, according to DaSilva.

"We would not exist without our partners. Our travel agent partners are our strength," she said.

Why a casino-themed appreciation event, you may be wondering?

"What we are playing on is the fact that when you are working with TTC Tour Brands, it doesn't matter what it is that your clients are looking for - we're going to have something in our brands that would be perfect for them," DaSilva said when she took the stage to thank advisors for attending. "It doesn't matter what cards you have in your hand - there's something that will make your hand even better."

Melissa DaSilva, President, TTC Tour Brands, North America

Finishing the year strong

According to TTC, the company has hit the jackpot with hard-working, dedicated travel advisor partners who were instrumental in the tour operator exceeding its 2023 sales expectations.

"We are having a year that is far surpassing what we thought it was going to be and part of that is recovery being a little bit faster than we had anticipated, but obviously a huge part of it is our partners continuing to support us," DaSilva said.

"We really thought it would take a bit longer for Canada to recover, so we were budgeting to be down double digits in 2023 vs. 2019. But Canada has been coming back strong and looking at revenue, it's going to be exceeding 2019 numbers. Canadians are travelling longer and spending more money, so it's going to be a really good year."

Another highlight of 2023 is that the brand's Make Travel Matter conscious travel experiences will be available on itineraries across its entire family of brands.

"Sustainability is at the heart of what we do. We originally had a goal to have a Make Travel Matter experience on at least 50 per cent of our trips by 2025, but I am happy to say that 100 per cent of our trips will have one by the end of 2023, regardless of the brand," noted DaSilva.

Looking further out, DaSilva is optimistic about the future, anticipating a continued growth trajectory and even stronger numbers in 2024 compared to 2019.

Polimex Travel's Margaret Mantius and Anna Olejarczyk.

Post-reorg: TTC fine-tunes its portfolio, supports the trade through tech

In MAR 2022, TTC unveiled a large-scale rebrand to bring all tour brands under one umbrella, leading to major changes to the structure and leadership of the company.

"The original vision was to make our brands co-exist with very clear differentiation. Before the reorganization, a lot of our brands were sort of bumping up against each other and we don't need to compete with each other. What we really need is to have a product that meets every need in the marketplace. That's what we've been doing over the last few months, looking at how our brands fit together, the types of demographics that go within them, and also what people are looking for when they travel," DaSilva says.

The reorganization's second goal, adds DaSilva, was to better support travel advisors coming out of the pandemic.

"We now have one sales manager for all of their questions, one inside sales team, one contact centre team. We've also invested a lot in technology. Our travel agent portal makes it a lot easier for our partners to find the right trip for the right person. They don't have to go to six different portals - they can get all of our brands, all the marketing material, all their bookings in one place," she notes.

Travel advisors who sell TTC Tour Brands are likely familiar with the nuances of each brand, but as TTC introduces itself to new agents, they may need resources to nail down matching the right customer with the right product. The TTC Agent Academy is a comprehensive resource with handy PDFs that outline exactly who the trips would be perfect for, and even in-depth customer personas like "Trafalgar Trish" that can make it even easier to understand the ideal customer.

Members of the TTC Tour Brands sales team. L-R: Sales Managers Brenda Bradley, Aaron Crawford, and Paula Rizos.

DaSilva gave a quick crash course (or refresher) on the TTC's six brands and their target market:

CostSaver

"You're looking for somebody budget-conscious but, more importantly, they don't want everything included because they want the freedom to tailor their trip. They choose the base of the trip and then they choose from over 1,000 optionals and add as much or as little as they want. This brand is for someone who wants less handholding."

Trafalgar

"These are your core family travellers: people looking for great value and some inclusions, but they want it at a good price. They want a nice hotel, but they're not necessarily looking for luxury. And they really want local experiences and meeting the people in the places they visit."

Insight

"These travellers want a slightly more premium experience with more premium meals and more inclusions. I wouldn't call it fully inclusive, but it is more inclusive than a Trafalgar trip. They also tend to be more curious travellers and want to know about the history and culture of where they're travelling. We don't have family programs on Insight so while we have some multi-gen travel, the kids are teenagers and older."

Luxury Gold

"You're talking five-star accommodations, Michelin-star dining, and everything is included. There are no optionals and you have a travel concierge with you every step of the way." Luxury Gold debuted a new look for what TTC calls the "golden age of travel" in JAN 2023.

Brendan Vacations

This new-to-Canada brand offers travel experiences to Ireland and Scotland. "We do guided vacations, but also do FIT vacations, everything from self-drive up to extreme luxury private chauffeured vacations. We can hand-craft any itinerary."

Contiki

Contiki specializes in tours and trips for young adults aged 18 to 35 who want to explore new destinations, meet new people, and have fun while doing so.

Advisors put their stakes on red or black at the roulette table.

Exclusive selling tips for travel advisors from TTC's President

With an evening dedicated to celebrating travel advisors, it was only natural to pick DaSilva's brain for some insider tips to help the trade excel even further. Here's what she had to say:

  1. Ask a lot of questions
    "A client may come in and think they know what they want, but it may be based on outside influences and not necessarily what they actually want. So just ask questions like, 'Why is it that you said you wanted this?', 'What are your must-dos?', and 'What are things you don't want to see?'. That will help narrow down the best destination, time of year, and product to offer them."
  2. Leverage your sales manager and inside sales team
    "It's amazing the amount of information travel advisors need to know about destinations and product. If ever in doubt, ask our team. We are always available and we have people across all time zones to help you."
  3. Book early
    "What we're finding, particularly this summer, is that people who are waiting until the last minute to book are finding that airfares are outrageous. Book early and lock in our airfares because if anything changes, we'll take care of it." Advisors will very soon be able to book as far out as 2025 when the product lineup launches in June.
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