NAME: Orelbys Vigoa
TITLE: Business Development Manager, Quebec and Maritimes
LOCATION: Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que.
YEARS IN TRAVEL: 22
It’s been a long road from the beaches of Varadero where Orelbys Vigoa grew up to the shores of the Richelieu River in Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., but the business development manager for AMResorts couldn’t be happier.
“Canada is one of the greatest countries in the world. There are lots of opportunities; and it’s a great place to raise your kids,” says the father of two, aged nine and 12.
Vigoa admits that he does miss his family, the beach, and the culture in his homeland, and he could do without the snow in the Great White North, but still he wouldn’t change a thing.
Winter, after all, is good for the travel business, forcing northerners to escape the climate and thereby helping thousands of his countrymen and women who depend on tourism to make a living. And he’s quick to point out that Cuba can get frightfully hot, which can be unpleasant when one has to work, not vacation, there. So, it’s one end of the thermometer or the other.
And Vigoa would know. He worked in the travel industry in Cuba in a variety of challenging capacities for close to a decade starting in 1996. His first job, he recalls, was as an entertainer and emcee at the Melia Sol Palmeras in Varadero. “I was a terrible singer,” he laughs, “but I could dance a little.” But five years of performing for and interacting with audiences – along with being “at the heart of things” at the front desk and being a destination rep – imbued him skills that he brought with him to Montreal in 2005, where he worked at the W Hotel.
“I’ve seen it all in the industry,” Vigoa says, adding that his background as an entertainer has taught him how to engage with clients now. “Nobody’s going to fall asleep during my PowerPoint presentation,” he smiles.
And nobody’s going to mistake his work ethic either – born out of growing up in a country where he had “quite a few challenging moments” – from hurricanes to mandatory military service, and “training kayak for five hours a day with barely any food during the ‘90s” – though not without the support of family and friends, he is quick to add.
Anthony La Para Santori, manager and senior travel consultant at Voyages La Para Travel in Montreal, pegs Vigoa as a bona fide go-getter. “[He] has been absolutely indispensable in helping me exponentially increase my business with their chain,” he says. “He has gone above and beyond in getting me into fams that were otherwise sold out, guided me with setting up my agent incentive program, which has helped me visit several of their resorts on my own, and further developed my appreciation and expertise for the chain. [And] he always does his best to get my clients extra amenities and upgrades when possible. Above all, he is human, personable, friendly, honest and genuine.”
Moreover, Vigoa – who covers Quebec and the Maritimes as his territory – helped La Para build his AMResort business from scratch – “as opposed to some other BDMs from other chains who came into look at your agency history without providing the blueprints on how to develop even more.”
Vigoa says his motivations are many, not the least living up to his title, business development manager for AMResorts, where he has worked since 2014.
“Training is a big part of the job,” he says. “The better a travel agent or tour operator understands our products, the easier they can sell them. My goal when doing trainings is to equip the professional with the necessary tools and knowledge to allow them to make an easy, quick and effective sale. I also work with travel agents to identify opportunities and good fits to grow their business with AMResorts. Obviously, I answer a lot of questions before and during the sale process and serve as a connector between the agent and the resorts for post-sale follow ups.”
He adds that agents who are experienced with AMResorts and newbies are equally important. “An agent with big numbers is usually one that knows the brands and the products fairly well.
An agent whose numbers have the potential to grow is probably one that needs more training and more exposure to the products. The first one deserves our attention and appreciation because of the efforts she puts into selling us and the end results. The latter can potentially surpass the first one if we give her enough of our attention. It is a delicate balance. Obviously selling is the best testament that the agent/ agency appreciates the products.”
As for the secret of being a good BDM, Vigoa says, “I believe it is to love the products and the company you work for and to understand that you work not only for you, but for thousands of employees whose livelihood partly depends on the work you do. Once you have those two things, the rest follows. In the meantime, you have to be presentable, respectful, courteous, sincere and a good communicator.”
He adds that being effective is also a team effort, with many people involved in carrying out the requests he makes to help his agents and their clients.
And if ever if it doesn’t work out, Vigoa says he knows he done his best to help.
“I always try to help the agents,” he says. “They go through a lot to sell us and there’s a lot of competition out there. So, if they’re going to stay to loyal to us, I’m always going to do my best.”
He adds, “Success for me, other than helping close a big sale, is what we do everyday and being able to help so many people achieve their goals. What gives me the most pleasure is when I can work with the teams at the resorts to satisfy a travel agent. When an agent is proud of selling AMResorts, I consider that a success and it happens quite often. As BDMs, we tend to have a lot of rather small success stories that combined make up for a rather large one.
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