Tuesday,  November 28, 2023  2:38 pm

Canadian travel industry remembers Patrick Luciani

Canadian travel industry remembers Patrick Luciani
Patrick Luciani sadly passed away on April 26th, 2020. (Photos copyright Pax Global Media Inc.)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Canada's travel industry is mourning the loss of a great leader, businessperson, family man and friend.

Patrick Luciani, founder and chairman of TravelOnly – one of Canada’s first home-based, host-model agencies in Canada – passed away unexpectedly on Apr. 26th.

Since then, Canada’s travel industry has showed an outpouring of support for the Luciani family, posting loving photos and memories of Patrick on social media and sharing stories with one another.

As a travel trade outlet that frequently interviewed and travelled with Patrick at TravelOnly’s conferences and events, PAX remembers TravelOnly’s founder as a kind, approachable, forward-thinking innovator who embraced change and always put family first.

He was immensely passionate about travel and the dreams and opportunities it presented to his associates and their clients. 

“We talk about travel, our partners, and our associates, 24/7. It’s a wonderful feeling,” Patrick once said in an interview, describing the rewards of running a family business.

Patrick Luciani, founder and chairman of TravelOnly, photographed at TravelOnly's TADA Awards in January. (Pax Global Media)

One of the family  

Arriving in Canada from Italy at age 12, Patrick Luciani nurtured a life-long love of travel from an early age, one that would fully blossom years later in the form of TravelOnly.

Patrick started TravelOnly – a company originally called Luciani World Travel – in 1974 after a career in politics, having served multiple terms as a city councillor in Brantford, ON, where his family and company is still based today.

Patrick Luciani at his desk in the early days of Luciani World Travel. Photo courtesy of the Luciani family.

TravelOnly has been a family affair since day one. Patrick’s loving wife, Ann, serves as the company’s CFO while his son, Gregory, is company president and CEO.

As TravelOnly has grown over the years, so has the Luciani family, with Gregory and his siblings, sisters Francesca and Nicole, all starting families of their own and producing a collective total of nine grandkids for their parents Patrick and Ann.

Photo courtesy of the Luciani family.

Treating his team, associates, supplier partners and industry colleagues as family members, along with promoting an open-door policy, was always at the heart of Patrick’s approach to running a business.

Any media interview, business appointment or casual run-in with Patrick was always met with a warm hug.

From left (of TravelOnly): Gregory Luciani, president/CEO; Ann Luciani, CFO; Patrick Luciani, founder/chairman photographed in Miami in 2018. (Pax Global Media)

Patrick also adored the people he worked with. In interviews, he routinely acknowledged the hard work and commitment his family, head office team, associates and partners brought to their roles each and every day.    

“We have some of the best people in our industry who are conscientiousness about serving their clients,” Patrick once told us. “That’s a blessing.”

The TravelOnly head office team with Patrick at TravelOnly's TADA Awards in January. (Pax Global Media)

“It has been an honour to know him"

Holly McBean, who has worked with Patrick since 1998 and currently leads TravelOnly’s training division, said her friend and colleague will be “truly missed” by the travel industry.

“It has been an honour to have known him. He has taken me through so many wonderful years of enjoyment in my career,” said McBean. “His love of family brought us all closer together and I admired his passion of the business he worked so effortlessly to grow. He will be missed by all who knew him. My husband Gary and I will forever remember his kind and wonderful ways of embracing us as his extended family. Forever in our hearts.”

From left: Gregory Luciani, Kevin Visser, Holly McBean, Patrick Luciani (Courtesy of Holly McBean)

Sinthia Gawlak, TravelOnly’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing, remarked that “TravelOnly has lost a visionary and the world has lost an amazing human being.”

“Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Patrick have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor,” Gawlak said. “Patrick leaves behind a company that only he could have built and his spirit will forever be the foundation of TravelOnly.”

“We have some of the best people in our industry who are conscientiousness about serving their clients,” said Patrick, photographed here for PAX magazine in 2017.  “That’s a blessing.” (Pax Global Media)

Ian Elliott, TravelOnly’s vice-president of sales and marketing, called Patrick “one of the most vibrant, positive and caring human beings I have ever met.”

“He was passionate about using travel to make the world a better place,” said Elliott. “Yes, he loved travel, but what he loved more was what travel could do for the human spirit. He treated me like family and I am heartbroken knowing that I will never get another phone call, text, or email from this gentle soul. I will miss him terribly… but I am so grateful for the memories I have with him and what he has taught me about life, compassion, and humanity.”

“He was passionate about using travel to make the world a better place,” said TravelOnly's Ian Elliott. (Supplied)

Douglas Hammond’s relationship with Patrick goes back 20 years.

TravelOnly’s Director of IT remembers starting computer repairs in Patrick’s small office, where the bathroom was in a phone closet, being invited to his mom’s for family lunch and dinner, "being persuaded to be a roman soldier for his Italian village," and being an active participant in the growth of TravelOnly.

“Patrick has been a great example of charity for myself,” said Hammond. “Having watched how he has interacted with people, his participation in charitable organizations, his hours of personal time given is inspiring. He loved people, and people loved him back.”

Patrick, Ann and Gregory Luciani photographed for PAX magazine in February 2020. (Pax Global Media/Matt Manhire)

Sandra Gardiner, director of national accounts for Canada at AmaWaterways, first met Patrick Luciani about four years ago.

“From the moment we met, I saw a man who smiled often and appreciated life,” said Gardiner. “Patrick openly adored his wife, Ann, and their children and grandchildren. His love also extended to his TravelOnly family. Patrick often spoke to me about new ideas on how we could grow our respective businesses. He had a zest for success, but more a genuine appreciation of his supplier partnerships. Always complimenting and sharing his visions, Patrick was also very social, occasionally dropping by the AmaWaterways office whenever in California to say hello to Rudi and Kristin and Gary. Every so often I would receive random notes of blessings or celebrated occasions or mere thoughts he had. I will miss his infamous opening greeting, ‘Ciao, Sandra.’ Fair winds, our dear friend and partner, see you on the other side.”

From left: Sandra Gardiner, Patrick Luciani, Kristin Karst, Rudi Schreiner, Ann and Gregory Luciani in Las Vegas last September. (Pax Global Media)

“Truly a man of great integrity"

David Harris, CEO of Ensemble, said Patrick Luciani was “truly a man of great integrity.”

“We are all so saddened to hear of Patrick’s passing over the weekend,” said Harris. “He will be remembered by so many of us for his leadership in our industry and also as a friend. On behalf of the entire Ensemble Travel Group, I extend my deepest condolences to Patrick’s family and to all of our colleagues at TravelOnly who are mourning his loss.”

Ann and Patrick Luciani. (Pax Global Media)

TravelOnly advisors Pat Probert and Mary de Almeida called Patrick Luciani “bigger than life.”

“He was a father figure a mentor and a leader all rolled into one,” the pair said in a statement. “Patrick was always there for us whether it was during working hours or on a weekend to take a call. It did not matter if he had only seen you the day before – when he saw you again the next day, he was so happy to see you again, just like it had been months since the last time. His huge smile and positive attitude flowed over into our hearts…hearts that today are broken.”

Pat Probert, Patrick Luciani, Mary de Almeida, Ann and Gregory Luciani, photographed together in January 2020. (Pax Global Media)

The duo said “Patrick has been family to us for the past ten years” since they first joined TravelOnly.

“We went away every year for a week with him, Ann, Gregory and the President’s Club members and he would be the life of the party and up for just about anything fun or a late-night dance with Ann,” they recalled. “To say that we were shocked when we received the phone call of his passing would be putting it mildly. Patrick, you will always be in our hearts and you will be a guiding light for us, from beyond. Until we meet again, rest in peace, our friend. We will continue to be here with the Luciani family that you left behind, but the hole and void you have left will never be filled. We will comfort Ann, Gregory, Nicole and Francesca and their families like our own. This was a gift that you left us with, the gift of family. Our thoughts are with the entire family and we mourn in your loss.”

TravelOnly advisors Barbara Scrocco and Robert Rizzo were also deeply saddened when they received the news of Patrick's passing. 

“Our hearts are full knowing that he lived an exemplary life filled with love,” the pair said in a statement. “Love for life, love for his work and most importantly love for his family.  He was part of our family and he will be forever missed.  Thank you for touching our lives in countless ways.”

Gregory, Ann and Patrick Luciani (Pax Global Media)

Frank DeMarinis, CEO of H.I.S. Red Label Vacations, noted that “Patrick’s accomplishments over the years in the travel Industry came from his passion and love of travel.”

“The respect he had towards colleagues and associates was one of a kind in the Industry, his infectious smile turned a business meeting into an enjoyable conversation,” DeMarinis said. “He always found the time to say hello to everyone at industry gatherings with his wife Ann beside him. Patrick was an astute business man, a friend, a family man who always had integrity, a true gentleman all around. The industry thanks you, Patrick, for showing us love, peace in travel.”

From left: Frank DeMarinis and Patrick Luciani photographed in January 2020. (Pax Global Media)

"To Patrick, we all mattered"

Global sales and marketing executive Dana Gain remembers Patrick’s leadership and authenticity.  

“Patrick believed in you even before you did,” said Gain. “When he was not teaching with his words, you learned from Patrick just by watching him. He was a master in the art of human connection and never failed to make you feel special, and valued, and significant. It was his gift. To Patrick, we all mattered. Every hug was a validation, every conversation a reason to be inspired. My greatest hope is that I have come away with even just a fraction of Patrick’s genius just by virtue of having known him. No higher compliment could be paid.”

Brenda Lynne Yeomans, Celebrity Cruises’ strategic market manager for Canada, knew she was part of the TravelOnly family from the moment Patrick greeted her with his signature “ciao bella” and warm smile.

“I had won the lottery” Yeomans said. “Business done, Italian style, with a great meal (and sometimes with a bottle of wine). Charming and kind, he would always make everyone feel welcome and comfortable. Patrick’s passion for travel, love for his family, and genuine relationships was present in how he lived his life. You could see it and feel it. Whether celebrating the successes of the amazing TravelOnly advisors at their annual gala awards, or travelling with the President’s Club winners, Patrick made sure it was always about people first."

"That was his magic. Forever in our hearts. Grazie, Patrick.”  

Patrick Luciani photographed for PAX magazine in February 2020. (Pax Global Media/Matt Manhire).

Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!