This piece originally published in the Key Notes on Travel summer issue. In this special section, we take pause to recognize and profile the many dedicated professionals who work to support Canadian travel advisors every day. Selling travel involves wrangling a lot of moving pieces and we tip our hats to those who help bring it all together.
Title: Groups manager
Company: Insight Vacations
Years in travel: 19
Title: Groups coordinator
Company: Insight Vacations
Years in travel: 6
SOMETIMES, LIFE DOESN’T LEAD you along straight paths. Mandy Kalitsis, the manager of Insight Vacations’ group travel department, knows all about that. The route to her current role began 20 years ago with an internship in Argentina, followed by six months of travel in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. When she returned home to Canada, Kalitsis realized she had left her heart in South America. She promptly landed a role in Peru with an adventure travel operator as a tour leader and was later promoted to regional operations manager.
But, a female, native English speaker running operations in Latin America wasn’t without its professional challenges.
“When you’re in an unfamiliar place you must become assertive,” she explains. “You learn how to navigate the system and how to read people while demonstrating appropriate reactions and determining expectations. Then you use the tools in your wheelhouse to make it work.”
These days, Kalitsis is based in Toronto and works alongside her colleague Heather Provencher in Insight’s newly-established Group Travel and Bespoke Journeys department. Together, the duo supports custom itineraries and special interest group travel.
Provencher, who switched from reservations to groups coordinator, notes the greatest assets in her wheelhouse are her Insight Vacations team members. “Assembling trips to places I haven’t yet been can be a challenge, but the great thing about our team is that I can always find someone who has.”
When asked which itinerary has been the most interesting to organize, Provencher tells KNOT: “A cheese journey to France. It was a custom group, themed around the regional cheeses of northern France.”
Naturally, Kalitsis and Provencher love the travel opportunities their jobs offer.
Provencher recently toured with one of her groups. “It was a custom itinerary called the Iberian Wine Journey themed around wines from northern Spain and Portugal,” she says. Wine aside, Provencher delighted in seeing an itinerary come to life. “I really enjoyed having the chance to see what they liked the most.”
Kalitsis has also been on the road. Since July, she’s been to Egypt, London, Portugal and Spain – and, not surprisingly, she loves it. What is surprising is that she seems to enjoy time spent in the office just as much.
“The people are lovely,” says Kalitsis. “Coming to work and being surrounded by great people is exciting. I’m constantly learning about new cultures and people.”
We asked Insight, why Mandy & Heather?
Mandy comes to us with a wealth of experience in the tourism space and a passion for the art of travel. We knew her attention to detail and genuine interest in connecting guests to magical experiences would make her an excellent fit for this role.
Heather has been with Insight Vacations since 2013 and has always gone above and beyond to support her team and trade partners. Her positive attitude and curiosity have helped her grow and shine as a travel professional.