While he’s been a member of the Sunwing team since 2010, Graeme Franklin – the company’s director of sales for Western Canada – has connections with the company that stretch back even further.
“I have worked at Sunwing since 2010, but my tenure with the company goes back to 1989,” explains the Surrey, BC resident. “I worked at Fiesta West which was later acquired by Signature Vacations, prior to the company becoming part of Sunwing.”
After taking on several labour jobs upon completing high school, Franklin was inspired to enrol in a travel and tourism course at a local college in 1986, using that knowledge as a travel agent for two years.
As head of Sunwing's Western Canada sales team, Franklin directs his staff to “ensure that we grow and develop sales in the retail travel agent community from Victoria, BC through to Thunder Bay, Ontario.”
This week, PAX checks in with Franklin on self-taught skills, nearly missing a childhood trip to Disneyland and a memorable dolphin encounter in Hawaii.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
GF: A reusable water bottle, my NEXUS card and headphones to listen to music.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
GF: Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo: this destination has beautiful weather, need I say more? It’s two diverse destinations in one resort area. There are lots of activities that you can do there like bicycle tours, kayaking to Ixtapa Island, sailing on a catamaran and lots more. Cancun/Riviera Maya: this destination offers exceptional properties close to great activities. On one family vacation, we did the half-day cenotes excursion with kayaking, snorkelling, ziplining and rappelling – the family loved it! Oregon: I love to camp in the Nehalem Bay area and surfing at Short Sands Beach in Oswald National Park.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
GF: Vancouver International Airport, of course. They have done an amazing job modernizing the facilities without losing the West Coast feel and charm.
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
GF: I love the fact that I get to sell a travel experience and represent fantastic hotels and resorts in amazing destinations. I particularly enjoy getting out and talking to my customers and establishing long-term relationships with the retail agents.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
GF: My first vacation was Disneyland in 1976. I was 10 years old and my parents had planned on being in Anaheim with my grandparents who were visiting from England for the Fourth of July. The day before our trip, I fell off my bike and concussed myself quite badly. I woke up in Richmond Hospital and I remember the doctor telling my mom she should cancel the trip. Fortunately, she didn’t listen! We had a great vacation celebrating the Fourth of July during the Bicentennial Celebrations at Disneyland.
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
GF: I am not typically a big spender on myself. I guess it would probably be a round of golf or two in one of the many destinations that I have been fortunate enough to travel to through the more than 32 years I’ve spent in the travel industry.
PAX: Most memorable food/meal you ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
GF: Probably roast kangaroo tenderloin at a small bistro in the Rocks in Sydney Harbour, Australia. I was fortunate enough to be able to take my dad on a radio promotion trip that I organized ‘back in the day’ with Fred and Cathy Latremouille at KISS FM in Vancouver.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
GF: I hate lineups. I love a simple and efficient travel process, designed to eliminate excessive wasted time.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
GF: I self-taught myself to surf over the past 10-12 years. I am not great by any means, but I do impress myself. I am also a superb cedar deck re-furbisher.
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
GF: Definitely up; there’s lots to see on a nice day.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
GF: On one of our family vacations to the Big Island, Hawaii, we decided to explore the Captain Cook Monument. We noticed lots of Spinner dolphins in the bay. The kids decided to jump into the water to swim with them. A few moments later, my son, Carson, started making dolphin noises underwater and was surrounded by dozens of dolphins. It was chaotic and fun until one of the adults in the water saw two or three large reef sharks swimming 15-20 feet below us. All of a sudden, the fun and excitement turned into fear and “Get us out of the water!” Thankfully, everyone made it back to shore safely. That day created lasting memories for everyone!
PAX: What should travel agents should be aware of right now in regards to Sunwing?
GF: These days there are so many all-inclusive choices that are available to customers. We are so lucky to be able to sell a wide selection of Sunwing Experiences to our customers to enhance their vacation, from action-packed ATV adventures and zipline excursions to snorkelling outings and catamaran cruises and so much more. Knowledge is key to selling the perfect sun holiday package and remember, your Sunwing Business Development Managers are happy to help coordinate the right product training for your travel agency. This winter, we’re really excited to offer new flight services, such as Victoria to Mazatlan and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, providing our customers with more ways to Vacation Better.
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