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Travel Leaders Network Celebrates Record Success at 2024 EDGE Conference

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In a bittersweet opening general session at this year’s EDGE conference, Travel Leaders Network president Roger Block told an audience of more than 2,000 travel advisors and supplier partners it’s time for him to step aside. 

“Travel Leaders Network is the strongest it’s ever been,” he said, making it the ideal time for him to hand the reins over to someone else.

“But it’s also the ideal time for you to expand, to enhance, and grow your business,” he added. “In an industry that’s proven to be able to endure severe ups and downs, historically we’ve always come back. But we’re coming back stronger than before and right now we’re stronger than ever.”

This bullish message of business booming was something we heard over and over during this year’s EDGE conference, which was held over the weekend in National Harbor, Md. Whether talking about leads, bookings, or revenue, the TLN team all agreed business has never been better. 

Leads up 
Behind a lot of Travel Leaders Network’s growth is the organization’s powerful lead generation marketplace driven by TravelLeaders.com.

“It is performing really well,” said Stephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer for Travel Leaders Group, during a media briefing at the start of the conference. “2023 was a boom year for growth on leads. 2024 is up, but not as much as from 2022 to 2023 because that growth was unprecedented. But ’24 is ahead of ’23.”

“It’s at 20%,” said Cory Voss, CIO of Travel Leaders Group. “It’s a significant increase, pacing well ahead of ’23.”

Voss voiced his amazement at the growth, adding that even though his team has increased safeguards to eliminate “spammy” leads down to “virtually nothing,” the lead numbers continue to rise.

Block attributed the growth to a number of factors.

“One, we’re trying to make the site more relevant,” he told TMR. “Two, the number of people traveling today and the amount of money they’re willing to spend today, I believe, is higher than ever… People are also looking on the web a lot more today than they did 10 years ago.”

Business is booming
Leads aren’t the only thing up at Travel Leaders Network. During the media briefing, John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group, provided a glimpse at the strong growth in bookings and revenue the organization is seeing.

“I don’t think anyone really anticipated what we’ve seen over the last two years,” he said. “I think we all anticipated that we were going to crawl, then maybe walk, then we’ll get into a slow run. Well, we went from a crawl in February to a full-on sprint by the end the quarter and it’s been a full-on spring ever since. And that’s just the cruise industry.”

Land business, he added, is also “really, really” good.

“We’ve seen a balancing in terms of cruise and land distribution of sales coming back to the historic average… But even with that happening, we’re still seeing demand, demand, demand continuing to increase.”

The only segment Lovell said is seeing any softness is Fun & Sun, and even then he expects Travel Leaders to see that segment up over 2023 by the end of the tear.

“Travel Leaders Network is stronger today than it’s ever been,” added Block. “It is larger today than it’s ever been. We have more advisors than we ever had. We sell more contemporary, more premium, and more luxury than we ever have.”

Speaking specifically of luxury, Block added that TLN’s Luxury Leaders Alliance, which is composed only of advisors selling at least one million dollars in luxury products, has grown to just under 500 members, the largest it’s ever been.

“The profitability of our members has never been higher. It’s the strongest I have seen this industry in my 44 years,” Block said.

TravelLeaders.com comes to Canada
One of the biggest pieces of news that the Travel Leaders team was excited to share was the company’s acquisition of the rights to the name “Travel Leaders” in Canada.

“We realized something we’ve been pursuing for multiple years, and that’s acquiring the name Travel Leaders in Canada,” said McGillivray during the media briefing.

What makes the purchase so significant is that the company can now merge its CanadianTravelAgents.ca lead-gen website with the larger TravelLeaders.com website. (Whether a consumer types TravelLeaders.ca or TravelLeaders.com, it will lead to the .com site.)

The merger, which goes live on Wed., June 12, is expected to deliver “significantly more” leads for the 1,100 Canadian members who will now be represented on the site.

The addition of these 1,100 advisors also adds a couple thousand pages of unique advisor-generated content, which Voss said helps Travel Leaders maintain its dominant search position. McGillivray called it “the super juice for Google.”

Voss explained that when a Canadian consumer searches for a specialist – say in African safaris or river cruises – the results will list Canadian advisors first, followed by U.S. advisors. Conversely, a consumer in the U.S., will get U.S.-based results first, followed by Canadian advisors.

New tools & programs
Travel Leaders’ newest tool is SNAP, an easy-to-use, web-based search and booking tool – powered by Sabre – that brings together air, hotel, and car.

Launched about two months ago on a beta trial basis, SNAP already has more than 2,600 hundred advisors signed up and using it. And, in just two months, over $1 million in volume has already been generated through SNAP with an average commission of $185 per air booking.

“Commission on air is back,” Block said during the media briefing. Though not every air route will be commissionable, there will be both domestic and international options that are with commission rates ranging from 4% to 22%. Search results clearly show which routes are commissionable and which aren’t.

Though new, the team at Internova and Travel Leaders group continues to refine the tool. Later this month, SNAP will release support for Travel Profiles, allowing advisors to build and store profiles, and eliminating the need to re-type passenger details.

Currently only available in the U.S., SNAP will be available to Canadian members as of July 2, 2024.

Coming soon is a long-awaited update to the Travel Leaders Network’s member portal, Agent Universe.

According to Voss, the new site will have a new look and feel, easier navigation, mobile responsiveness, better SEO, and other enhancements.

“We conducted an in-depth user experience study with our members to find out what’s working and what’s not,” he said, adding there were “a lot of different things that needed to be addressed.”

Similarly, Travel Leaders is working on enhancements to Cruise Compete, which should be going live later this summer.

Also coming soon is a lead generation reporting dashboard, that advisors will be encouraged to use.

“If a lead is generated and an advisor is picked, the advisor will need to report the status of that,” McGillivray said. “We think it’s only fair. If a lead is generated and an advisor is picked by a consumer to work with, that that advisor should be able to report back to us the status of that lead. That’s our expectation.”

When asked if it will be mandatory, McGillivray said, he’d “rather go with the carrot… What’s the downside of not doing it? It’s all in the algorithm of where you list in search. Do your part, report on the sale. You’ll still get credit, even if you didn’t complete a sale.”

The Travel Leaders Network team also reported on the success of its micro-community Alliance program, which it launched in 2022. Currently there are four Leaders Alliances, two open to members at the advisor level – Luxury Leaders Alliance and the Honeymoon & Destination Wedding Leaders Alliance – and two open to members at the agency owner level – the Independent Advisors Networks Leaders Alliance for host agencies and the Technology Leaders Alliance.

In the fourth quarter of this year, Travel Leaders will launch an Active & Adventure Leaders Alliance, and in the first quarter of 2025, TLN will launch a Family Travel Leaders Alliance.

Reflecting back on a long career
TMR sat down with Block to talk about what’s new with Travel Leaders Network but also to ask what he’s most proud of over his long career in travel.

He didn’t hesitate for even a second.

“All the people that I’ve helped make a lot of money,” he said.

Being a travel agency owner can be tough, he explained.  

“Most people get into it because they love travel, they love dealing with the advisors.”

But the question of how you manage a business is harder to figure out. And that’s where Block believes he, in his role at Travel Leaders – has been most successful.

“What I’m most excited about is when I’m talking to people who are making more money than they ever dreamed. They have a lifestyle that they can’t even imagine. They’re just so happy with what they’re doing, that’s what brings me joy.”

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