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Monday,  June 24, 2024 12:21 PM 

“Travel agents are our focus”: TravelBrands shows tech, tools & appreciation at T.O. event

  • Buzz
  •   10-05-2022  10:02 am
  •   Pax Global Media

“Travel agents are our focus”: TravelBrands shows tech, tools & appreciation at T.O. event
Frank DeMarinis, president and CEO of TravelBrands, connects with travel advisors and suppliers in Toronto. (Supplied)
Pax Global Media

Seeing roughly 500 travel advisors and more than 70 suppliers show up to an event is a good sign that the travel industry is starting to thrive again.

After making the difficult decision to cancel its spring launch in March of 2020, becoming the first major travel company to abort a large-scale roadshow due to the COVID-19 pandemic, TravelBrands returned to in-person networking Tuesday night (Oct. 4) as it revived its Agent Appreciation event in Toronto.

Held at the Paramount Event Space in Woodbridge, ON, the industry showcase – which included stops in both Toronto and Montreal – gave the TravelBrands team an opportunity to update the trade on its latest products, offers and innovations.

Central to TravelBrands’ mission is to develop new and innovative ways to support travel advisors through investments in technology and personalized service. 

Around 500 travel advisors attended TravelBrands' Agent Appreciation event in Toronto. (Supplied)

This was something Frank DeMarinis, president and CEO of TravelBrands, made clear last month while participating in a panel discussion at the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies’ (ACTA’s) 2022 Travel Industry Summit in Toronto.

During the panel, DeMarinis said TravelBrands was investing millions of dollars in digital modernization, naming Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a key partner.

“All of that is going to be geared towards you, the travel agent, and how you interact with our brand in the future,” DeMarinis said at the time, addressing a conference room full of travel advisors. “Over the next two years, you're going to see a vast improvement on where we are today to where we're going.”

The goal, DeMarinis said, is for TravelBrands to build a future where agents can easily interact with suppliers in a more convenient way.

Frank DeMarinis, CEO of TravelBrands, addresses agents at the company's Agent Appreciation event. (Supplied)

The specifics of this vision were shared last night as TravelBrands presented details about two major projects it has been working on: an enhanced and improved version of its reservation platform, Access+, as well as a brand-new air reservation platform.

Additionally, as part of the company’s commitment to sustainable practices, this year’s events were "green" with QR codes used in lieu of brochures.

Speaking of the future, TravelBrands is also getting into the business of space travel.

Last month, it was announced that parent company H.I.S.-Red Label Vacations Inc. had inked an agreement with Space Perspective to become an authorized agency to sell their products.

Space Perspective is the “world's first luxury spaceflight company,” inviting explorers to the edge of space inside a pressurized capsule propelled by a high-performance SpaceBalloon.

The TravelBrands team gathers in Toronto. (Supplied)

The six-hour journey promises to “redefines space travel,” allowing guests to soak in views of the earth below and the dark vastness of space aboard a zero-emission, carbon-neutral spaceship.

Travel advisors can earn a 10 per cent commission on selling the experience, which starts from $125,000 USD per person. 

Back here on earth, PAX caught up with Mr. DeMarinis to learn more about TravelBrands’ plans and what it feels like to re-connect with the travel industry face to face.  

PAX: How does it feel to resume TravelBrands’ in-person Agent Appreciation events? 

Frank DeMarinis (FD): Fantastic! How wonderful to be able to interact and exchange ideas!

PAX: What is your advice to travel advisors as the fall/winter season begins?  

FD: Book your clients travels in advance as space is limited and capacity is reduced! And reach out to the TravelBrands team for tools that can help save time.

PAX: What can you say about TravelBrands’ 2022-23 offering? How comprehensive is it compared to 2019?

FD: There are so many more products. There’s close to 1.8 million hotels to choose from. Plus, two brand new platforms: Access+ and a brand-new air booking engine, which is coming soon.

PAX: Are there any other new products or partners that agents should be aware of? 

FD: Access+ is coming this month. It will have an enhanced search widget, dynamic fly/drive packages and cancellation penalties, and will offer river cruises. The new air booking engine has an enhanced flight matrix and filters, flight details, branded fares and seat maps, the ability to add and view a mark-up calculation and a fare calculator. 

In addition, we have dynamic cruise packages. Agents can book and manage cruise groups online. There's also air and sea protection – when you book cruise and air with us, we will ensure passengers always get to and from the port. And we cover all fees. 

With Exotik Journeys, there’s a dedicated website with some very rich content of the tours and products. It’s a fabulous reference for both agents and consumers. It’s also now active on social media. 

Also: Space Perspective [the world's first luxury spaceflight company], launching in 2024, will begin to market under Exotik on Nov. 1, 2022.

Frank DeMarinis, president and CEO of TravelBrands. (Pax Global Media)

PAX: What can you say about TravelBrands’ COVID-19 recovery in general? How is the company doing? 

FD: It’s excellent! We’re close to 2019 numbers in all areas of the business and focused on customer service, R&D and technology.

PAX: What role will technology play in TravelBrands’ future operations? 

FD: Technology is the key to our success. With Access+ and our air booking engine, we are committed to offering agents tools to help them process their queries and bookings quickly and efficiently.

PAX: What sales trends are you noticing right now? What’s selling? 

FD: Everything is selling. There’s so much pent-up demand. From quick getaways to Vegas to bucket list destinations with Exotik…not to mention cruises, all-inclusive holidays and everything else in between!

PAX: What is your message to travel agents as TravelBrands’ Agent Appreciation events conclude? 

FD: Travel agents are our focus. We continue to gather feedback to develop the tools they need to make more money. Our team is constantly re-engineering our processes to make booking with us as seamless as possible. Our commitment is to always ensure agents work smarter and not harder. Their time is precious.

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