With a brand new office not far from Times Square and a whopping 18 new sales managers, Travel Corp. has started checking off items on its 2017 agenda—with an end goal of getting closer to the travel agents who bring in its core client base.
“A lot of things are coming” for the travel-agent channel, Travel Corporation USA president Richard Lauder told TMR on Thursday, beginning with more people who will simply be there to interact with travel agents and help them sell. The 18 new sales reps will join the existing 50—“a very significant increase, and an investment in our most important distribution channel, which is travel agencies,” Lauder said.
Also “building on that New York staff” will be a new e-learning program that will roll out in about two weeks, Lauder said, though he declined to provide details at this point.
“Agents, and especially home-based agents, live in a very busy work environment, and they get bombarded with communications from suppliers,” he said. “They have asked us to provide clearer explanations of how our brands are different from each other and from our competitors, to help them understand how to sell our brands.”
The new office—a return to Manhattan for TTC after many years of being based mostly on the West Coast—will be headed by Guy Young, former CEO of Uniworld.
“When we talk to host agencies and home-based agents, far more than interacting with the head office, they want to interact with a local sales manager,” Lauder said. “Even though they work from home they want a relationship with somebody—and adding these sales managers gives us an opportunity to do just that.”
Also on the agenda this year are more of the popular Travel Corp. road shows, TTC University, that bring a full day of training to cities across the country. “It’s hard to get agents to come to educational sessions for one brand, but if they can come for a day and learn about eight brands, they feel that’s worthwhile,” he said.
Overall, Lauder is bullish about business in 2017. “January has been a fantastic month for us; the second week was our best sales week in 13 years.
"I think the whole tide lifted. Europe did great; 2016 was a tough year and it’s just great to see it bounce back.” But demand is still incredibly strong across the board: “the national parks are still hot, the Canadian Rockies and on fire, it’s great to see France coming back. And the I’s are still on fire—we had capacity issues in Iceland and Ireland because they are so popular. Air fares are compelling at the moment and it’s just very, very encouraging. Our selling season runs through July 4 so we have a long way to go, but we are off to a great start.”
Across the brands, travel agents generate about 90% of TTC’s business, and “the consortia are critical in driving critical mass.” So this seventh U.S. office, and the new human faces that will man it, are a sign that “we’re putting our money where our mouth is. They told us this is what they want, and that’s what we are delivering. And we are excited to get started.”