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Travel Pulse Canada attended a special VIP supplier event, hosted by The Travel Agent Next Door, last week in Vancouver, BC. Created to support the retail travel industry, with a focus on small, medium, and home-based travel agencies, The Travel Agent Next Door (TTAND) says it's one of the first host agencies to treat its suppliers to an evening of canapes, drinks, and networking.
"We had one main purpose in hosting this event," said Flemming Friisdahl, TTAND President and Founder, during a brief presentation at Vancouver Airport's Westin Wall Centre. "We wanted to ensure our suppliers out west know how important they are to us. We wanted to show our appreciation."
With headquarters in downtown Toronto and a branch office in Vancouver, The Travel Agent Next Door recognizes the importance of a strong presence throughout Canada.
"We knew we wanted to do something exciting out west after focusing on a new regional approach, which includes four key areas: western Canada, the prairies, Ontario, and eastern Canada." Friisdahl said it is important to ensure each region feels significant and never left out. "Western Canada represents about 30% of travel sales in the country, with a diverse clientele, and that's important to us."
A regional approach also helps suppliers who will better be able to focus their reps and business efforts. The continued growth and support of suppliers are key, said Friisdahl, who believes in a "3 W's" approach (a win for suppliers, agents, and TTAND). However, The Travel Agent Next Door is selective and strategically aligns itself with a limited number of suppliers. It has even created two distinct groups: preferred and approved suppliers.
"By focusing on fewer select suppliers, we believe we all benefit by receiving more focused and quality support from each of them," he said. And, so far, the numbers back this approach. "We've been able to achieve about 50% of our sales with preferred and 30% with approved suppliers."
In addition to supporting the development efforts of suppliers, TTAND is strongly devoted to its agents. "If I can save all of our agents 20 percent of their time, which they can then allocate to increasing sales or an improved work-life balance, then we all win."
During the presentation, Friisdahl introduced a new CRM (customer relationship management) platform. "We worked with developers to build our own customized program, specifically for our agents," he explained. The online system keeps agents apprised of how they're doing, if they're hitting targets, and lets them search for suppliers, clients, marketing support, etc. It even hosts warning messages, which pop up in the event of a critical travel emergency (say, an airline is grounded, or an airport shuts down).
"Our company was built around helping our agents and agencies succeed, and that's what we do," said Friisdahl.
"When we started The Travel Agent Next Door about five years ago, it was just three of us and now we have 700-plus agents," added Vice President Travel Agent Services, Penny Martin. She's been with TTAND since the beginning. "It's been a lot of work and dedication, and strong partnerships that we're proud of."
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