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Saturday,  July 13, 2024 1:22 PM 

“Thank you”: TTC Tour Brands hosts casino-themed TA event, talks trends

“Thank you”: TTC Tour Brands hosts casino-themed TA event, talks trends
The team at TTC Tour Brands celebrated travel advisors Wednesday night (May 3) at Arcadian Court in Toronto. (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.

“When you’re 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 the deck that is going to be perfect for them,” said Melissa DaSilva, president of TTC Tour Brands.

Kinda like a deck of cards, which were shuffled and played Wednesday night (May 3) at a casino-themed travel advisor appreciation event, hosted by TTC Tour Brands, at Arcadian Court in downtown Toronto. 

Raffle tickets were won and the open bar was bubbling – TTC, in fact, created a menu of special cocktails, from a prosecco-laced negroni to a mint julep, that reflected each of their six tour brands – as attendees raised a glass to honour Travel Agent Day, which, each year, lands on the first Wednesday of May.  

TTC Tour Brands hosted a casino-themed party at Arcadian Court. (Pax Global Media)

The chatty night, which drew roughly 150 travel advisors – including agents from Western, Central and Eastern Canada that TTC flew in – wasn’t about making major announcements.

“We really just wanted to say thank you,” DaSilva told PAX at the event. “We really appreciate the people who've stuck by us.”

A global reorganization

After all, a lot has happened at The Travel Corporation (TTC), which, last year, reorganized its tour brands – this being, Luxury Gold, Insight Vacations, Trafalgar, Brendan Vacations, Costsaver and Contiki – into one portfolio that is now known as “TTC Tour Brands.”

The global restructuring was created with a goal of providing a comprehensive range of options for every type of traveller, whatever their budget, style of travel or personal preference.

Since the formation of TTC Tour Brands, the team has implemented changes to the way travel advisors sell and work with the individual brands.

From left: Ashley Woodring, Paula Rizos, Aaron Crawford, Brenda Bradley, Jenni Berg. (Pax Global Media)

This includes having one united sales team of 22 local sales managers across North America, one contact centre across all brands, and one marketing team that works to provide advisors with turnkey tools to sell the brands.

And, to make it easier for travel advisors, the group created a Travel Advisor Portal (TAP), which combines everything into one online resource, offering the latest sales and marketing tools.

Travel advisors, now, can search and book more than 1,000 worldwide guided itineraries across the six brands, and add pre/post nights, pre-paid gratuities and discounts.

Agents can also download itineraries, access invoices, make additional payments, find transfer details and complete their client’s trip registration.

From left: Melissa DaSilva, Denise Luciani, Brenda Bradley. (Pax Global Media)

“The reorganization is going really well,” DaSilva said. “I think it took a little longer than we thought to really clearly delineate how all of our brands fit together. That was one of our challenges. I think there was a lot of confusion over when to sell which brand to which client. We spent a lot of time really organizing that.”  

The premise, DaSilva said, is that “we really do have a tour for anyone and everyone.”

“Whether it's youth with Contiki, specialists like Brendan Vacations (who only do Ireland and Scotland) or all the way up to Luxury Gold, which is your five-star dining and luxury hotels, we really have something for everyone. And in 2024 and 2025, we’re going to see the product become even more clearly niched out, where [for example] you've got families with Trafalgar and women with Insight. You’re going to see more of that happening.”

Travel advisors Carla MacKay (left) and Wendy Dunham flew in from Atlantic Canada to attend the party. (Pax Global Media)

One point of contact

DaSilva said the restructuring has been well received because “having that one point of contact for our partners makes it so much easier than having to go through six different reps, or six different sales departments, or six different marketing plans.”

The “biggest benefit” to travel advisors has been the new portal, she said.

“They can log into one portal, search for trips, and it brings back results for all of the brands based on the filters they put in. They no longer have to go to six different websites to book. They can see all of their bookings in one place, and manage them,” DaSilva said.

From left: Oliver Weibel; Ian Elliott, Fiona Kosmin. (Pax Global Media)

As for the latest booking trends, DaSilva says this year has seen a return to old patterns.

“The booking patterns are stabilizing back to what they were pre-pandemic as people are starting to book further out,” she said.

However, there are some customers who are still booking trips at the last minute, she noted.

Connections with locals

And as for the brands themselves, the products haven’t changed much over the past three years, except for one notable adjustment: every single itinerary, with every brand, now includes a “Make Travel Matter” experience.

Travel advisors gather at Arcadian Court in Toronto. (Pax Global Media)

These are sustainable travel initiatives that encourage the greatest community benefit from travel and tourism, while educating guests about global goals and the local community actions being taken to advance them. (Click here for more info).

“We’re also trying to include more experiences that connect guests with locals,” DaSilva said. “Which will differ, depending on the brand. You might be meeting a countess if you’re with Luxury Gold, or cooking with ‘Marta’ in her kitchen in Tuscany with Trafalgar.”

“I think those are the things that people really crave – that connection to people.”

The company, meanwhile, is continuing its climate action plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

From left: Kayla Shubert, Lisa Boardman, Jenni Berg, Viktor Spysak. (Pax Global Media)

DaSilva’s advice to travel advisors, other than to book their clients early, is to “please, please, please make sure your guests get travel insurance.”

“Every single issue that gets escalated, I ask, “Do you have travel insurance?’ And they don’t, and it breaks my heart,” she said. “I think if anybody is booking a trip without travel insurance, they're doing their clients a disservice.”

Leave it to the pros

Travel Agent Day, which began in 2011, extends into a month of travel advisor appreciation, full of promotions, deals and incentives.

“I think now, more than ever, travel agents are proving their importance and worth,” DaSilva said. “There's too much information out there and it's impossible for anybody who's not a professional to try and read through it all in a coherent way.”

From left: Paul Nielsen, Denise Luciani, Cecelia Russell. (Pax Global Media)

“I think that's where travel professionals come in. They help their clients understand exactly what's going to be the right destination, the right product, and the right experiences.”

“And we're just super grateful when they pick our products when they're talking to their clients.”

MAIN IMAGE. From left: Brenda Bradley, sales manager, Northeastern Ontario, TTC Tour Brands; Luiz Paulo Marques, brand & communications manager, Trafalgar & Costsaver, NA (based in Toronto); Nicki Nuzman, director, partner marketing, TTC Tour Brands, NA (based in California); Aaron Crawford, sales manager, Southwestern Ontario, TTC Tour Brands; Melissa DaSilva, president, TTC Tour Brands, NA  (based in California); Jenni Berg, director, national accounts, Canada, TTC Tour Brands; Paula Rizos, sales manager, B.C. & Yukon, TTC Tour Brands; Ashley Woodring, VP, sales, TTC Tour Brands, NA (based in New York).

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