“Industry Q&A” Featuring Elvi Cal, Vice President Product Development, Travel BrandsMarch 23, 2018
In this installment of our ongoing Industry Q&A series, we chat with Elvi Cal, Vice President Product Development, Travel Brands. Travel Brands is a dedicated team of travel professionals who have created a B2B “super-distribution” network comprised of five retail/OTA brands and 10 tour operator wholesale brands. Canadian owned and operated, Travel Brands can connect its partners with millions of Canadian consumers. Here Elvi reflects on travel trends, explains the company’s shift to digital marketing, and offers advice for DMOs who want to work with Travel Brands, especially those looking to enter the Canadian market.
Q: Tell us about your business and target consumer.
A: We are a leading Canadian tour-operator with various product streams — hotels, add-ons, car rentals, packages, specialty/niche travel, cruises and air. Our client is the travel agent.
Q: What is the most significant travel trend or consumer behavior that is changing the way you do business?
A: Multigenerational travel is really big. One and two-bedrooms condos make it very easy for families to travel together without booking two or three hotel rooms. Second, we’re trying to encourage booking further out, because that’s when you get the best air deals. Looking at summer and fall departures, we are extremely competitive with tour operators and their charters flights. So we are trying to push people to book earlier. This way travel agents make more money and the consumer, because of the discounted air, gets to save as well. Finally, we are seeing consumers asking for unusual trip durations such as 4, 5, 8 to 10 nights. With mid-week air combined with a weekend flight, sometimes the overall package price for a 9 or 10-night stay is the same as a 7-night duration.
Q: Before adding a new program or itinerary to your product portfolio, what factors do you consider?
- Customer safety comes first: How safe and how accessible is the location?
- The market segment we will attract: low budget, baby boomers, high end, niche?
- Trends: What kind of growth has the destination seen in the last two or three years? How many Canadians go there?
- Competition: Is there any other competitor in Canada that is currently selling the destination? Is there something that we can do differently, to try to grow the market there or steal market share?
- Value for money: This is always a key consideration.
Destinations which come to the table with this information will be more successful in convincing us to augment our product.
Q: What have you found to be the most effective means for marketing your products?
A: Since our client is the travel agent, we count on our trade-focused website, including webinars. We also have a team that visits travel agencies across Canada; we rely heavily on them and their relationships to develop the business. Finally, we’re moving away from print media and more into digital marketing. Because of our flexibility and our dynamic placing and packaging, it’s hard for us to properly get the message out in print. So, we rely a lot more on digital, because then you can change the message instantaneously.
Q: How do you integrate social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest) into your marketing efforts?
A: We have an amazing and interactive agent-only Facebook page, Your TravelBrands BDM. Travel agents can access promotions, enter contests, ask questions, comment. We make it a priority to answer any questions the same day.
Q: What can DMOs do better when working with your organization?
A: Give us the proper tools to help sell the destination — reliable websites with high-res pictures we can use in our marketing campaigns and brochures, and the ability to do webinars with our travel agents, to help them get to know the product. But of course, the most important aide is marketing funds because this helps us market the products in Canada. Having a marketing campaign with a co-op funding relationship allows us to piggyback with some of the hotels in the area and create campaigns to increase awareness and business to the destination.
Q: What advice would you give to DMOs looking to enter the Canadian market?
A: Having someone based here is always preferable to having someone who comes up once a year with a group of hotels, to say, “What can I do for you?” and then you don’t hear from them for another year. Often, especially for a lot of U.S. destinations, DMOs think Canada is just an extension of the U.S., and we’re not. We have different vendors, different buying habits and market conditions, so having a person who is knowledgeable about the Canadian market and trends is critical to help us get our message across.
About Travel Brands
Ontario-based Travel Brands operates a network of five retail/OTA brands and 10 tour operator wholesale brands offering discounted vacations, last-minute travel, luxury travel and cruises to destinations all over the world.