When it comes to predicting trends and outcomes, you never know what you’re going to get in the travel industry. Data can guide our expectations but so many circumstances – weather, politics, natural disasters – are completely out of our control. Nonetheless, it seems as though travel leaders are reflecting positively on 2018 and looking ahead to the next 12 months with great optimism. Here’s what they had to say:
LINDSAY PEARLMAN, Co-President, Ensemble Travel Group
ON 2018: Based on what we are experiencing, it has been a great year. Overall sales volume is up in all segments, member initiatives continue to do well, and Ensemble’s growth (organic and new) is doing well… We continue to see an increase in the need for the expertise of the travel advisor. As a result, our members – regardless of the business model – continue to see an increase in demand for their services. Our mission continues to be providing products, education and training that meets those needs.
ADVICE FOR THE YEAR AHEAD: I believe we all agree that the industry continues to evolve, so too must the travel advisor. Education is a must; what was the norm a few years ago is no longer. Technology needs to be embraced, communicating with the client needs to look different, and marketing based on specific interests needs to be aligned. Do what you love and failure is not an option!
TIM MORGAN, Director, Business Strategy, Canada, Virtuoso
ON 2018: Virtuoso had a strong year, thanks to our members and partners. We have seen 10 per cent growth in the number of Virtuoso advisors in Canada and 35 per cent growth in travel sales by Virtuoso advisors in Canada, highlighted by 51 per cent growth in cruise. Virtuoso’s biggest success in 2018 was achieving record travel sales growth by our members. The luxury travel segment is doing very well and our members are finding increased success through the network’s productivity tools, exclusive offers from preferred partners, and award-winning marketing initiatives to ensure that they’re able to showcase their value to clients.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: Consumers are increasingly demanding highly personalized and authentic experiences across all product categories. As the 2019 Virtuoso Luxe Report found, nothing is left to chance anymore; from car rental types to wines to tattoo artists, today’s consumers want to customize everything about their travels in advance. Canadian travel advisors will be challenged to tailor trips to their clients’ precise tastes, and to tap their partner relationships to bring these rare experiences to life.
CHRISTINE JAMES, VP, TL Network – Canada
ON SUCCESSES & CHALLENGES OF 2018: Among our greatest successes are: excellent attendance and feedback from our members & suppliers on both our annual EDGE conference which we hosted in Vegas in June, as well as our Canadian fall regional conferences held across Canada in October. In addition, more of our members are taking advantage of posting their profiles under our Agent Profiler lead generation tool and as a result, are seeing excellent return in terms of the quality of leads and bookings they have received. Our biggest challenge is getting more of our members to take advantage of all the great benefits and opportunities we offer to help them grow their business and improve efficiencies in their agencies.
ON CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR: I do believe that due to the overwhelming amount of online information that’s available to the travelling consumer, they are turning to a professional travel advisor now more than ever to help guide them through the clutter.
DEANNA BYRNE, President, The Destination Experts
ON 2018 CHALLENGES: Unethical competition in an unregulated province. This is a serious issue nationally and I have had the pleasure of speaking with many top agency owners to brainstorm about building a platform where ethics, education and professionalism will be key. Stay tuned for some great teamwork to combat this issue.
ON TRENDS FOR 2019: People are disconnected and they need to reconnect. I strongly feel that clients will begin looking for types of travel that allow them to be grounded. They are looking for internal joy and fulfilment.
ADVICE FOR THE YEAR AHEAD: Step back and look at your industry. Realize we are all in this together and by working professionally, supporting each other and being committed, we gain the support from clients. Trust, commitment, value and follow-through will allow you to not only support your industry but will provide your valued clients with more than a booking tool; you provide them with an advocate.
DIRK BAERTS, COO, Merit Travel
ON 2018: 2018 has been a year of transition for the Merit Travel Group. Following the acquisition by H.I.S. Co., Ltd. at the end of 2016, the previous owners and founders of the company have left the organization this year and a new management team took over. But notwithstanding the change in management and ownership, it also was a year of sales growth.
ADVICE FOR THE YEAR AHEAD: Stay focused on your customers, on the core products you want to offer and on the services you are providing. Be exceptionally strong in what you do and in what you offer; only then will you be able to get the benefit of your work. Don’t try to be everything for everyone.
GAVIN MILLER, VP Leisure, Flight Centre
ON 2018: It was a good year for Canada’s travel industry. The economy was strong despite the challenges of the dollar, there were new airlines, new capacity and new destinations. Access to worldwide destinations have never been cheaper (i.e. Australia) and Canadians are travelling in record numbers. We didn’t see any “Trump slump” effect as our numbers to the United States increased year-over-year. Nothing really disrupted travel in an extraordinary way. People want to travel and have accepted a new normal and level of uncertainty with respect to weather and safety.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2019: We need to be ready for new players. The rise of low-cost carriers is coming and there are signs that the economy is weakening. If that happens, we anticipate an injection of incentive/competitive pricing which will put pressure on returns but should also stimulate the economy at the same time.
CATHY MCMANAMAN, Director, Travel Services, CAA National
ON 2018: CAA was named the most trusted brand in Canada, according to the fourth annual Gustavson Brand Trust Index released in May. We are thrilled with this announcement and it is truly a testament to the dedication of our network of CAA associates in Clubs across the country who serve our 6.3 million members. ‘Travel with Someone You Trust’ is a CAA Club slogan that isn’t taken for granted. Brand trust is more important than ever as today’s consumers are bombarded with options. We want to continue to be their trusted choice for travel. Overall, 2018 was a good year; our cruise business was up significantly and so was travel to exotic destinations such as Africa, India and Asia. Future sales are up; 2019 is off to a great start.
ADVICE FOR 2019: Travel is growing at a record rate – it is a great time to be in the business. Keep up to date, be creative and keep smiling!