by Jim Byers
Last updated: 11:55 AM ET, Mon February 19, 2018
With lots of great product and plenty of good deals around, it's a good time to be a travel agent in Canada. But you have to do it the right way.
TravelPulse Canada spoke with five top-shelf Canadian travel folks to find out how travel agents might fare this year. They all had great things to say about the job agents are doing. But they also offered advice on how to maximize revenue in a competitive world and talked about what kind of agents are getting the job done.
"Our travel agent partners are having a good year," said Tim Croyle, vice president and general manager WestJet Vacations. "When people book their vacation they're spending money but they're also making a large emotional investment. Things like the hurricanes or security issues in various countries create uncertainty so people lean more heavily on agents to know what's open and where they should go. The last thing they want to do is book something and not have it meet their needs."
Nicole Bursey of Air Transat also had good observations about agents.
"We find the ones having really strong success are open-minded about Europe and are coming out and learning more about destinations," said Bursey, commercial director for Transat. "It's second nature for a Canadian agent to sell a package to Cancun, but a guided tour of the Czech Republic requires a bit more homework. I find the agents who are embracing Europe are doing well."
"Agents who are actual consultants will always do well because they can upsell; they can cross sell," said Nino Montagnese, Managing Director at Air Canada Vacations. "It's all about ancillary revenue. Years ago we looked at a travel agent as a job. But it's not. It's a career. They're selling something that in a lot of cases is a once-a-year dream for a family to get away. Everything they do put that trip together can make or break a family's vacation. So, they need to look at themselves in a different light. They need to say, "I can put you in a regular room or I can upgrade you to a suite for $120 more for the week and give you a much better experience."
Travel agents are doing well overall, but Sunwing Chief Operating Officer Andrew Dawson said he sees a real gap between various agencies.
"There are some quite large discrepancies," he said. "The full-service agencies are doing well, but others that don't add as much value aren't doing as well. I think agencies today really have to know their product and be able to give good, educated suggestions that match up with their clients."
Meaning an agent can't just say, "Oh, try Cuba. You'll like it?"
"Exactly," he said. "They have to really understand what they're selling."
Travel Brands' CEO Frank Demarinis said prices are holding steady and that Canadian agents are doing well.
"From our perspective 100 per cent of our growth is from travel agents," he said. "We're growing and continue to develop programs based on what the agents needs are."
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