The 'Monday Minute' is a weekly feature at PAX dedicated to highlighting the movers, shakers, leaders and rule-breakers in Canada's travel agent community. Wanna be profiled? Wanna nominate someone? Email email@example.com!
Name: Ethel Hansen Davey
Company: Uniglobe Enterprise Travel Ltd.
Lives in: East York, Toronto
How long have you been a travel agent? 19 years
Specialty: Although Mexico and Western Europe are my passions, I don't consider myself a specialist in any one area of the travel industry. I hate labels. Mexico is definitely my area of expertise though, since I have likely been to more parts of Mexico than many citizens of Mexico have. The history, the cultures, the food, the dramatic nature, and especially the wonderful people make this a place that is very near and dear to my heart.
What do you love most about being a travel agent?
The travel industry is a wonderful place to meet like-minded people. I try to attend as many interesting conferences internationally as I possibly can in order to keep abreast of all the wonderful options that we can offer to clients, not just the prepackaged, all-inclusive trips. I am a real fan of off the beaten path type travel, so that remains a real focus for me. Here in Toronto, the travel community is a pretty small and friendly place to be.
What's one travel trend you've noticed as of late?
I’ve noticed that there are more people interested in FIT trips and some adventure type of travel, whether light or really challenging. This is wonderful for me to see. Travel should be about learning about new and exciting places, the food, the culture, the various lifestyles in those places, the nature and cities there. Not just about sitting on another beach at another all-inclusive resort. Having said that, there is certainly a time and place for that type of vacation as well.
Over the years, how have you had to adapt to changes taking place in the industry?
I started in the business just prior to 9/11. That changed everything. The drastic commission cuts, the airline failures, the added security measures, etc...made this industry a whole new game. Also the technology used now in booking. My goodness – so simplified and so great to not have to sit in queue on the phones to reach tour operators to do bookings.
Another change has been the shift away from salary-based agents. More and more agents are working on a commission-only basis for the various host agencies out there. Although I work as an independent as well, I choose to work in an office environment. That works best for me but others find that working from home suits them better. So the industry has become more multifaceted as far as agents go.
I am a little concerned about the number of "dabblers" in our industry that, although they have passed a TICO exam, are only in the biz for agent rates and FAMs. As a person who works full-time in the industry, I find this to be a bit disturbing, but then I guess it is up to the host agencies and tour operators to better vet those accepted on FAMs in order to ensure that those that do go are actually going to bring value to the tour operator that is hosting them.
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary and/or travel package are you most proud of?
A wonderful honeymoon that included travel around Thailand followed by a week in Bali. It was a little challenging since we had all the Thailand pieces in place and finalized when the bride decided that Bali was really her dream.
So, with the assistance of my favourite tour operator, we were able to make it happen. Happily the budget was a hefty one so it all worked out well. That is one that springs to mind but it's hard to pick just one. A total FIT trip for my clients to all parts of India, based on their wish list is another. Four weeks. Wow! It is a trip that I would have liked to take as well.
What's your number one piece of advice to other travel agents?
Don't limit yourself. If you choose a niche, that's fine, but never lose sight of the fact that the person that wants the $599.00 Cuba trip today may want the $20,000 trip of a lifetime soon when circumstances allow. Or, they may have friends and family that will. I don't think putting all one's eggs in one basket is always a great choice.
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