TravelBrands' first, in-person events for advisors since the pandemic were 'sold-out shows,' with the Toronto Agent Appreciation Day on 04OCT live streamed for travel agents across Canada.
The suburban Toronto venue was packed, with hundreds of agents and more than 70 suppliers gathered to network like it was 1999.
“We had our agents appreciation day in Montreal on Monday, and now we have this today,” TravelBrands President and CEO Frank DeMarinis said in a one-on-one with Open Jaw. “It’s a breath of fresh air. Now I think we can open a new chapter and get back to semi-normality and a new wave of business and how we should move forward.”
DeMarinis said FIT is about 135% above 2019 booking levels, while cruise is up 130 per cent That’s despite prices being roughly 40 per cent higher across the board versus three years ago.
DeMarinis said capacity isn’t all the way back and probably won’t be until 2024.
“But the demand is there globally, not just in North America. Europe this summer was so busy. Greece, Spain and Italy set all-time records.”
One segment of the market that hasn’t fully returned is business travel. That would normally be very bad for airlines, but DeMarinis noted that leisure travellers are treating themselves by purchasing seats at the front of the plane.
“Agents have a lot to look forward to,” he said. “From a TravelBrands perspective we want to keep up with the current demand. We keep evolving around technology and building platforms for agents … to be more flexible, to provide that level of service their customers want.
“We want to involve the travel industry for the next generation of agents.”
TravelBrands has 90 airline partners, more than 1.5 million hotel rooms and 19 cruise lines to choose from, DeMarinis said.
Bruce Lidberg, TravelBrands’ director of sales, acknowledged to advisors that the pandemic had been a very difficult period for them and the industry, “but we made it through together, and we’re here tonight.”
Lidberg unveiled a series of major changes to the online experience for advisors as part of their Access+ Program, which will be available in the coming weeks.
Improvements include a single search engine for agents, having advisor loyalty points displayed “front and centre,” new fly and drive packages, access to more rental cars, a new “my bookings” page and easier-to-find river cruise options.
There also are improvements coming to their Intair platform, which will have a new flights results page and better information on commissionable fares.
Lidberg also took a minute to chat about Exotik Journeys, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary and offers everything from safari to self-drive trips, as well as unlimited golf packages and “bucket list” adventures.
Major suppliers on hand included Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat, Royal Caribbean, Sandals, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, The Israel Ministry of Tourism, Avis, and Majestic Resorts, as well as tourism representatives from Barbados, Antigua, Hawaii, California and Grenada.