BASED IN: PETERBOROUGH, ON
YEARS AS A TRAVEL ADVISOR: 34 YEARS
What was your first job?
My very first job at 12-years-old was a waitress at a small restaurant in the town that I grew up in Eastern Ontario, Mallorytown. In my teenage years, I was a travel advisor in the summer at Hill Island, which is at the border between the U.S. and Canada. I counselled tourists on routes to take and places to see in Ontario. I did this during the day and at night, I sold Alouette Cosmetics at home parties.
Why did you get into the travel industry?
I loved working with people and giving them great suggestions about what to see while they were on vacation in Ontario. At 17, I left home and came to Peterborough in 1981 to do a three-year program in Travel and Tourism. I graduated in 1984 and have been in the travel industry ever since. After working most of my career with Marlin Travel, I bought my travel agency 14 years ago and haven’t looked back.
What do you enjoy about guided travel?
I think the biggest advantage to having a guided tour is the knowledge that tour directors can give to clients. They know the destination and can give clients who are thirsty for knowledge and experience a well-rounded perspective on the place they are visiting.
Why do you enjoy selling Collette’s product, specifically?
The team at Collette is willing to work with me to ensure that we both have continued success and repeat business. This is so very important in today’s market. We both have the same vision for customer service excellence and keeping clients for life. I do a lot of marketing in newspaper, television and have a number of local consumer events. Collette has professional brochures that are customized for us and a reservations team that is second to none.
What sets Collette apart from other product on the market?
Collette has some fantastic products and destinations on the market. I like the door-to-door sedan service and that there aren’t a lot of extra costs added in optional excursions; everything is included. Some coach tour companies have optional excursions that can add a significant amount to the tour cost. Plus, Collette is able to custom tours for us and give us the opportunity to have our own private coaches. My agency specializes in customize group tours to many destinations around the world. Our sales have increased with Collette over the past few years and I do expect it to grow even more in the coming years ahead.
What do your clients enjoy about Collette?
I most recently travelled on a Collette tour with my clients to Iceland and, I have to say, our tour director, Melanie, was fabulous. The tour was well-organized, the accommodations were excellent and the team on the ground was most attentive and helpful. The tour was excellent and the clients were very impressed with Collette’s attention to detail. It was truly perfect.
How do you upsell Collette product?
We are finding a trend in our agency that clients aren’t looking to be a part of a 45- or 55-passenger tour any longer. They are looking for more small-group touring where they can experience the destination fully, and Collette’s Explorations product line suits that demand perfectly. Plus, clients are willing to pay a bit more for a more intimate look at the destination.
How do you qualify a client for Collette tours?
We do have clients looking specifically at coach tour companies for many different destinations. We look at what their needs are, where and when they want to go, the itinerary that might best suit their needs and then look to Collette to fulfill all the “wants.”
What advice do you have for other travel advisors looking to grow their group tour sales?
Customer service is key. It starts the moment that the client comes into your office. Care about your clients and listen fully to what they need. Create a niche. Don’t follow the crowd. Get in on the ground level and promote tours and destinations before they become popular. Be different. If you do the same thing that every other travel advisor or agency does, expect the same results. Be proactive; network and grow your clients' list for life. There are always going to be challenges in this industry. You need to overcome them to be the best that you can be.