In another sign of the travel industry’s recovery, Travel Leaders Network, a division of Internova Travel Group, brought back its live Edge Conference this week in Orlando, Fla.
Over 1,000 attendees—travel advisors, supplier partners, and more—gathered at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando starting on Monday once again to learn, get updated, and celebrate the industry’s path forward. That’s the largest live conference the company has had since the spring of 2019.
“It’s been a tough road, it’s been a long, long ride, but we are seeing improvements in the business,” John Lovell, the president of Travel Leaders Group, said during a press conference this week. “It’s a very emotional time I think for a lot of people – we experienced something that will probably never happen again in anyone’s lifetime.”
The message from Lovell was that TLN advisors, along with the rest of the industry’s population, are on the other side of the pandemic. While there is still a ways to go, people are traveling again, and even those that are not are more enthusiastic than ever before, Lovell added.
“I think the best is really yet to come. We anticipate business being back to true full strength, back to 2019 levels, sometime in 2023. But if you look at what’s happening with new airplanes being brought on, hotels being built around the world, [and] cruise ships being built in terminals, 2023 can obviously be a stellar year for all of us,” he said.
“We will get back there in early 2023 and we will go right through it,” he added.
TLN has officially brought back its Distinctive Voyages Hosted Cruise program, an exclusive perk for its members that offers a series of hosted sailings, all featuring added amenities onboard such as a welcome reception, a private car and driver option, and exclusive shore excursions.
The first return voyage left on Sept. 26 and 19 total are planned before the end of 2021.
Stephen McGillivray, the chief marketing officer at TLG, called the program “the crown jewel” of the group’s cruise programs during this week’s press conference. “This is a very valuable member benefit,” he said.
For 2022 and 2023, TLN is planning on 578 Distinctive Voyages going to 47 ports of call in 30 different countries, including sailings on AmaWaterways, Celebrity, Cunard, Oceania, Regent, Silversea, and much more.
Enhanced Agent Profiler
Also this week, TLN announced that one of the crown jewels of its toolbox, Agent Profiler, is also getting a number of upgrades.
The lead generation tool will now give remote advisors the option to update their location from where they are currently working, which will allow employees working outside of a brick-and-mortar’s geographic area to properly position themselves for prospective clients.
For ICs, Agent Profiler will also allow them to highlight their business name instead of just their host.
Members are also now given the option to display their years of experience in the profiles, along with a badge to show that they have completed Book with Confidence, which is only available to those who have completed the program inside TLN’s training options.
Members will also now be able to turn off leads—a capability never before offered in Agent Profiler.
“Pausing leads allows them to put on their profile that they are not currently accepting leads… We know that digital leads are extremely perishable and if you don’t jump into it,” McGillivray said.
Family Bonds Foundation
The Family Bonds Foundation, a TLG initiative that was founded by Lovell in 2015 and supports families and communities within travel and the broader community who have experienced hardship, has officially kicked off its annual fundraising efforts.
The highlight is a special raffle that will give those who donate $10 a chance to win prizes including ocean cruises, river cruises land packages, hotel stays, and international airfare. Donations are accepted at the Family Bonds Foundation Website or by texting BONDS to 56512. The website can also be used to nominate grant recipients.
“Travel brings people together, and the travel industry repeatedly demonstrates its compassion by supporting those in need,” Jackie Friedman, the president of Nexion who also serves in the same role with the Family Bonds Foundation, said.
Nexion’s annual conference, CoNexion, held last month highlighted one of the Foundation’s recipients, Natalee Fox. Fox was hit with a serious bout of typhoid fever and needed surgery digestive system, a surgery that was partially covered by Family Bonds.
“I cannot adequately thank the donors who made this possible,” Fox said. “We can all use a hand sometimes, and that’s why Family Bonds exists.”
Education and Membership Update
At the press conference this week, Roger Block, the president of TLN, said that “it has been an interesting 20 months” for the group.
Membership is up—Block said the group has brought in “some huge agencies” over the past year, including some large host agencies like The Travel Agency Next Door, and a little over $400 million in agency sales.
As is education, with more and more TLN advisors signing up for one of six specialist training programs, something that TLN believes is one of the biggest reasons its members are so successful. The courses aren’t a small undertaking for advisors—they take up to two years to complete. Still, it has been widely successful, even in the face of the pandemic.
“We’ve had the largest graduating class this year with 233 people who have graduated,” Block said.
Currently, according to Block, TLN has 18,923 advisors, out of 55,000 in its network, enrolled in one of the six sessions. That is along with its four-part Trusted Travel Advisor Series, another educational offering fir TLN.
“We are preaching the value of becoming an absolute expert and our advisors are buying that wholeheartedly,” Block said. “Education is very important to Travel Leaders Network, it is an investment in our future and we really look at it that way.”