Three years to the day since its last VIP Supplier Event, The Travel Agent Next Door was back at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York along with a large and raucous crowd of suppliers and TTAND staff.
The company founded just over eight years ago by Flemming Friisdahl has expanded exponentially over that time. Using the ‘next door’ analogy, it’s a bit like that post-war bungalow that was torn down and replaced with a multi-million dollar mansion.
In 2014, the host agency closed its first year of operation with 60 agents, three staff members and $7 million in sales. As 2022 winds up, TTAND now boasts 1,100 agents, 45 staff members and $255 million in sales. And that’s with over two years of travel-paralyzing pandemic in the mix.
Using the typical comparison with 2019 – the last normal year – TTAND sales jumped by 53.5% in 2022, surprising even the company’s founder. “Nobody thought it would come back that quickly,” Friisdahl said.
In fact, TTAND came out of the global crisis larger than it went in. Over 30 months it added 450 new agents, while losing 250 who left the business in search of greener pastures.
The Travel Agent Next Door founder Flemming Friisdahl speaks to partners at VIP Supplier Event.
Friisdahl’s The Travel Agent Next Door mantra has always been that the company, its member agents and its preferred and approved suppliers all must “have the same skin in the game,” investing and committing to each other to drive sales.
He says the approach has proven successful. “Of our $255 million in sales this year, 82% is going to you, our preferred and approved suppliers. We are very proud of that number.”
The TTAND philosophy is to concentrate its members’ sales efforts on a condensed list of suppliers. Friisdahl says the list hasn’t expanded a great deal since the company’s launch, and the preferred and approved suppliers appreciate the focus – and the revenues. In turn, they focus support on TTAND member agents.
On its end, TTAND promises members a reasonable fee structure – which hasn’t changed since the company was founded – and an attractive commission split.
“This business only works if there’s something for everyone in the relationship. When we do well, everybody does well, our members, our suppliers and the company as a whole,” Friisdahl said.
During the pandemic, TTAND kept all of its staff, asking them only to take a 10% pay cut. It reduced agent annual member and start-up fees. It kept members and suppliers up to date with over 250 Zoom meetings. It continued to market as well, “planting the seed for future aspirational travel.”
“It’s been tough, but we’re thrilled to be back with all of you. We’re happy that all of TTAND’s suppliers made it through but one (Crystal Cruises) and we’re very positive about the future,” Friisdahl said.