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Sunday,  July 14, 2024 3:28 AM 

On Location: TTAND announces supplier partner awards, company updates in Jordan

On Location: TTAND announces supplier partner awards, company updates in Jordan
G Adventures was voted as TTAND's "Most Supportive Land/Guided Tour Partner." (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The Travel Agent Next Door (TTAND) held its own version of the People’s Choice Awards at its 2024 national conference in Jordan on Tuesday (June 4), honouring its most supportive suppliers – a list that was voted on by agents themselves.

More than 50 per cent of agents in TTAND’s network participated in the voting process, said Flemming Friisdahl, TTAND’s president and founder, addressing 227 travel advisors and 31 supplier brands (37 reps) in the ballroom of Jordan’s Crowne Plaza Dead Sea, where TTAND’s “Trailblazers” conference (and 10-year anniversary party) is currently unfolding.

It’s a big honour for a supplier to be recognized by the travel trade. Here’s the brands that received an award for their support for TTAND’s independent travel advisors last year (2023):

Most Supportive Tour Operator Partner – Air Canada Vacations

Most Supportive Land/Guided Tour Partner – G Adventures

Most Supportive Cruise Partner – Celebrity Cruises

Brenda Lynne Yeomans of Celebrity Cruises. (Pax Global Media)

Most Supportive River Cruise Partner – AmaWaterways

Most Supportive Expedition Partner – Hurtigruten

Most Supportive FIT Supplier Partner – Goway

Most Supportive Hotel/Resort Partner – World of Hyatt Inclusive Collection

Most Supportive Specialty Partner – Projection Expedition

Best Overall Approved Supplier Partner – Disney

Sandra Gardiner of AmaWaterways. (Pax Global Media)

But Overall Supplier Partner – Air Canada Vacations

Representatives from each company were called up on stage to receive an award from TTAND’s leadership team.

In lieu of a traditional plaque or trophy, the winners received an item reflective of TTAND’s commitment to sustainability – a trophy made of chopsticks.

“Elevate, evolve, support”

It was one of many moments at TTAND’s conference, which PAX is covering on location, that filled Tuesday morning’s opening session.

TTAND’s highly-anticipated event, on now until June 9, comes as the host agency – Canada’s largest – marks significant growth, growing its sales from $6 million in its first year to some $500 million expected sales in 2024. The company’s cross-country network has also now surpassed 1,400 agents, Friisdahl shared yesterday.

READ MORE: On Location: "The unexpected awaits": TTAND conference begins in Jordan, reigniting local tourism

“Our vision is to continue to elevate, evolve and support the profession of selling travel,” Friisdahl said, addressing the audience.

Flemming Friisdahl, TTAND’s president and founder. (Pax Global Media)

TTAND is fresh off an internal restructuring as it prepares for the upcoming retirement of VP Agent Experience, Penny Martin. 

The recent hiring of Jeff Element as COO and Chris Senior as CFO is part of a plan to usher in new perspectives to the company, Friisdahl told PAX previously.

Friisdahl also hopes the new team affords him a better work-life balance “so I have more time to talk with potential new agents,” he said.

In Jordan, addressing TTAND’s network, Friisdahl promised to continue empowering agents with more resources and tools, along with personalized support and training.

“While you may be working from home, you are never alone,” he stressed.

TTAND, which now has more than 70 employees, has long held a belief in what it calls the “three Ws.” A win-win-win – a win for suppliers, a win for agents, and a win for The Travel Agent Next Door. 

And part of “winning” is staying ahead of the curve with new technology that make the lives of travel professionals a little easier (and more profitable).

Yesterday, Friisdahl shared some of TTAND’s tech updates, which includes a new hub for advisors.

TTAND's conference features a program of educational workshops and training sessions. (Pax Global Media)

The redesigned platform, which utilizes artificial intelligence, boasts functions that simplify processes around staffing and supplier management, as well as with billing and invoices.

TTAND has also developed a new cruise booking engine, a B2B2C booking platform and a groups module for its agents.

Advisors participant in supplier one-on-ones in Jordan. (Pax Global Media)

Using the new tools, TTAND agents will be able to create customized itineraries and connect with clients in “ways you’ve never done before,” Friisdahl explained.

In other news, TTAND is revamping its Z.I.P. Zero Interest Program (a travel financing program that launched in 2019), and has invested in a company that will provide agents with access to all the NDC (New Distribution Capability) content that’s currently shaking up the airline industry.

Advisors participant in supplier one-on-ones in Jordan. (Pax Global Media)

As previously reported, TTAND’s “Trailblazers” conference, which is taking place in three hotels in Jordan this week – the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea, Old Village Resort and Moevenpick Hotel Resort Aqaba – is a collaborative event with G AdventuresRoyal Jordanian Airlines and the Jordan Tourism Board.

Agents are currently immersed in day-long educational, networking and training sessions. But tomorrow (June 6), the vibe changes as the ancient nation of Jordan takes centre stage.

David Green, global vice-president of sales and customer operations and managing director for Canada at G Adventures, talks about travel trends at TTAND's conference in Jordan. (Pax Global Media)

A multi-day itinerary will begin, taking participants to historic Petra (a UNESCO site that’s half-built, half-carved into rock, which will host a private event for TTAND on Friday, June 7), the desert of Wadi Rum (known for its sandstone mountains), and coastal city of Aqaba. 

There’s also a focus on community tourism as participants, earlier in the week, had opportunities to visit two of G’s Planeterra projects.  

 “The best thing for us to do”

The conference is important to the people of Jordan, which has experienced a decline in tourism ever since the Israel-Gaza war began last October.

Jordan isn’t involved in the conflict, but its close proximity to Israel has led to mass cancellations and postponed trips, local guides have told us.

Speaking to PAX at a special Bedouin-themed party last night at the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea, which transformed its beachfront into a Bedouin camp, complete with rugs, tents and traditional attire, Omar Banihani, director of marketing for Canada at the Jordan Tourism Board, called TTAND’s conference “one of the biggest things we’ve ever done in Canada.”

Omar Banihani, director of marketing for Canada at the Jordan Tourism Board. (Pax Global Media)

“It’s just the start,” Banihani said. “Bringing TTAND here is a testament to the travel trade, their trust in Jordan, and the Jordan Tourism Board and what we do.”

The Jordan Tourism Board entered Canada in 2005 “when there wasn’t even 10,000 travellers a year to Jordan [from Canada],” Banihani shared.

Bedouin party was held at the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea. (Pax Global Media)

“Now, we get 45,000 [Canadians] a year,” he said, crediting that success to travel advisors who have sent clients to Jordan.

From Petra to Wadi Rum, TTAND’s “amazing week” will leave participants impressed, but the highlight will be Jordanians and the hospitality they share, Banihani said.

Bedouin party at the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea. (Pax Global Media)

Bedouin party vibes at the Crowne Plaza Dead Sea. (Pax Global Media)

“Jordanians don’t make casual friendships. They’re lifelong friendships,” he said. “We feel like we’re at home with the travel trade in Canada. We want them to feel at home in Jordan. This opportunity is the best thing for us to do.”

As the Israel-Gaza war puts a dent in tourism arrivals, Banihani says the focus is now on achieving long-term goals.

From left: G Adventures' David Green; The Jordan Tourism Board's Omar Banihani; The Travel Agent Next Door's Flemming Friisdahl, (Pax Global Media)

“We don’t want to sit with The Travel Agent Next Door and say, ‘Bring us business.’ We want to gain their trust, show them how beautiful Jordan is and show our commitment to social enterprises,” Banihani said.

“Right now, the travel trade has so much trust in Jordan, and the Jordan Tourism Board. When consumers regain their interest in Jordan, the trade will be ready to go.”

To see more pictures from the conference, visit and “like” PAX’s Facebook page here.

Stay tuned for more of PAX’s on location coverage from The Travel Agent Next Door’s 2024 “Trailblazers” conference and 10-year anniversary in Jordan.

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