TTC Tour Brands CEO Gavin Tollman talks to Travel Courier about travel trends, recovery and how to thrive post pandemic
Describing 2019 as “nothing more than a litmus test for success,” Gavin Tollman, the CEO & president of TTC Tour Brands, says those in the travel industry should look forward rather than backwards.
“If you’re trying to replicate what you were doing, you will fail because it’s just no longer there. Everything has shifted and changed,” Tollman tells Travel Courier. “This is an interesting time for our travel industry — an exciting one — and all I can say to everybody in it is change too. You’ve got to look at the realities of where the world is going and adapt to them. And if you do, you’ll be able to thrive in a way that you couldn’t ever imagine. And that degree of flexibility is what’s going to be a critical component to making sure you will do well in the future.”
Notably, he says this also applies to travel advisors.
“Look at everything through the consumer’s lens — they have changed — and do not apply what was to what is now. You have to be far more fluid. You’ve got to adapt and you’ve got to be able to listen.”
Although travel advisors are “more vital than ever” he challenges them to showcase their value to clients and potential clients.
“You are more needed than ever — use that and use that wisely,” explains Tollman. “Consumers are coming to you for your expertise. Make sure you have that and just because someone has done research and they come with ‘this is what I want to buy’ never take it at face value. To our agent partners I always say ask questions. Why do you want to go on this trip? What do you want to see? And then make sure it actually aligns to their needs. Otherwise you’re wasting a huge opportunity to demonstrate the power of what a travel agent can do.”
In the era of post pandemic travel, he says TTC Tour Brands is witnessing some significant shifts in consumer behaviours and buying patterns.
“Consumers are either booking super far out or super last minute” he says. “The other thing, which is interesting, is the time of year to travel. Our greatest growth in 2022 would have been in the month of April and October. It’s how people are looking when they want to shift, getting out of the main season, where do they want to go? Our opportunity within this industry is never to continue living what was but actually looking to where consumer buying patterns are and adapting to them.”
In order to increase bookings, he suggests reaching out to past customers to re-engage with them.
“If not, somebody else is, so you should,” he says. “Number two, ask the right questions because there’s no doubt people want to go and they want to hear from you. Make sure you’ve got in the back of your mind your recommendations.”
As for destinations, he says Costa Rica and Egypt are hot for the Canadian market, and that 2024 is boding well for the destination.
“What we are seeing, and certainly for 2024, is the rebound of the Canadian market. I think a huge surge is still to come,” he says.
As for the decision to restructure its brands under the TTC Tour Brands umbrella, Tollman said the pandemic forced them to adapt as a company.
“The pandemic forced all of us to really look at everything we did. There were many outstanding people that worked for our organization for a very long time and hard decisions had to be made,” he said. “The way we approached our reorganization was to define the structure that we thought was going to be right for a future. And then once we had defined the structure, we looked to the individuals within our business. We’re obviously a smaller, leaner business at the end of it and the outcome of that has been extremely positive. But we still recognize and must acknowledge all those that came and worked for us beforehand. They were still part of the fabric that made us, us and we miss them.”