Happy Travel Agent Month! To celebrate the annual event commemorating the role of the travel agent in Canada, PAX spoke to a group of agents from various markets outside of the hubs of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to learn about their experiences as travel advisors in 2019. It likely comes as no surprise that business is booming! Check back each Wednesday in May to read about a different travel agent.
For Vision Travel’s Randene Bank, every day as a travel advisor in Regina, Saskatchewan is different.
While today may involve a client wanting “a quick escape to Mexico,” tomorrow could bring a couple planning a Tahitian honeymoon. In one case, it brought a member of the Royal Family to Saskatchewan’s capital city.
“It’s always something new and exciting every day!” Bank told PAX.
The veteran travel agent entered the industry in the late 1990s while living in British Columbia, drawn by the social aspect and growth opportunities available in travel.
“It seemed like an interesting opportunity, with lots of options to learn and grow,” Bank recalls. “I enjoy working with people, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity – to help people plan their vacations and have fun with clients.”
At a population of just over 200,000, Regina is in the middle of the pack when it comes to measuring Canada’s provincial capitals by size; despite its capital city status, however, Regina still retains a small-town feel, Bank said, an atmosphere which bodes well for travel bookings made through agents. In addition to Regina-area clientele, Bank also counts clients from across the province and beyond (including the U.S.), mostly from former Regina residents or those with family ties to the region.
“I find that the market here is very strong,” Banks said. “A lot of clients will do their research online but they’re not necessarily comfortable with booking their own travels; they want the added support of a travel agent. It allows them to have their questions answered, as well as having a back-up in case there’s an issue and they need someone to assist them…. We’re very warm and welcoming – it’s not like they’re reaching out to someone on the other side of the globe who they haven’t met.”
That added support comes in handy, Bank said, particularly for clients booking a complex or custom itinerary.
“I had some clients a couple of years back who were doing a Habitat For Humanity build in Australia,” Bank recalls. “They wanted to have a bit more time to go sightseeing and when they were planning their travels, they had some very specific ideas of what they wanted to do. I was able to work with a tour operator and find some short excursions that could be booked around their Habitat work. They were able to explore the natural beauty of Australia as well as the nature and animals.
“Sometimes it takes more fine-tuning but in this case, it worked well with their travel plans; since then, they’ve always come back with their travel plans. It was a positive result and they come back for the same service, year after year.”
And as it turns out, even the Royal Family requires a travel agent from time to time, Bank said, recalling her most memorable booking.
“We do some work with the Government of Saskatchewan and we were the office that brought in one of the royal visits to Saskatchewan,” she said. “It was definitely a feather in our cap!
“Prince Edward was on the trip and we had to coordinate with the protocol office and the security team at Buckingham Palace to ensure that everything was in order. It’s not very often that the Royal Family is travelling on a scheduled flight. It was a matter of ensuring that we had the right schedule and that it wasn’t made public prior to their arrival. Some of the folks that were on the flight were probably more than a little surprised that he was on that flight!”
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