While Afra Davis has worked as TravelBrands’ BC business development manager for just over a year, she got her travel industry start long before that.
“I started as a very young kid stuffing envelopes/flyers for my dad who was in the industry with Cathay Pacific for over 30 years,” Davis recalled. “I started my paid career in travel when Canada 3000 began flying out of YVR – I was one of the 32 of 3000 people who applied and was hired to be a stand-by agent at the airport…little did I know about “camp 3000” until that first summer hit. We found ourselves surrounded by people who camped overnight for weeks at a time in line at the airport to fly for super cheap around the country!”
Since then, Davis has worked in several areas within the travel industry, including hotels, airline operations and most recently, the tour operator sector; based in BC’s Lower Mainland, Davis’ current role sees her “working with travel agency partners to build their knowledge and loyalty with all of the products and programs that we offer through TravelBrands,” supporting them through trainings and sales calls and “building their knowledge within the industry of everything TravelBrands.”
This week, PAX checks in with Davis on shopping for jackets in Bali, seafood dinners in the middle of the Nevada desert and a crucial piece of information that tour leaders should provide to their FAM groups ahead of time.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Afra Davis (AD): A water bottle: no matter where I am travelling, whether it’s while I’m doing calls around town or jetting off somewhere exotic like Prince George. A charger: always need to ensure you have juice for your devices. A bottle opener: never know what situation you might be in where you will need to crack a bottle of wine.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
AD: Southeast Asia: the culture, the food and the countries are uniquely different from one another, so you can travel to this region of the world over and over and never experience the same vacation twice. Mayan Riviera: I am a water baby so I find the tours/attractions and opportunities endless. Xel-ha, catamaran tours and many beach activities this is one of my go-to simple and quick getaways. Hawaii: Each island offers very unique areas, beaches and cultural aspects to the Hawaiian culture. I love each island individually for very different reasons.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
AD: It’s a tossup between Hong Kong Airport and Schiphol Airport: both airports have tons to do, eat, drink and shop for – and you can learn about the culture you have arrived in or are leaving from! They are both very easily accessible to the downtown city centre by rapid transit. I feel like each of these airports are a destination on their own. But in the end, I always love YVR; I have watched this airport grow and expand and add services for both the guests flying through but also the thousands of employees that work there each day. When I am in YVR, I feel at home!
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
AD: I love my job because of the people; no matter what position I have held within the industry, it is the friendships and partnerships that make me happy for choosing to be a part of this industry. Some companies you work with become your family and some partnerships you create become lifelong friendships. The industry can be a little crazy at times and unsettled, but in the end, we are surrounded by people that will support us, help us and be there so that we succeed together.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
AD: The first vacation I ever took was to Disneyland, Universal Studios and Knotts Berry Farm. It was our first family vacation outside of Canada and full of amazing family memories that we created. I think I was about seven years old. We travelled on a plane and by car many times before that, but it was always to see family in Northern BC. Traveling south for my first time opened my eyes to how big other cities were (LA) and how the imagination can create endless possibilities (Walt Disney and Universal Studios Hollywood).
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
AD: The biggest splurge I have ever made on a trip was in Bali, Indonesia. I bought myself a couple of custom-made leather jackets; one black three-quarter length and one red bomber style with a matching red leather hat. I went into the tailor’s shop in the late afternoon, picked out which leathers I wanted, they measured me and within 24 hours, the two jackets and hat were delivered to my hotel for me. The total cost was about $240 CAD – I am not a big spender.
PAX: Most memorable food/meal you ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
AD: It’s extremely hard to narrow this down to one meal! I have had authentic mole in Puebla Mexico, daily fresh fish caught in the gulf of Thailand and Harrys Steak House in Cancun, but perhaps the most memorable food/meal I have ever eaten was in Las Vegas on a FAM at Estiatorio Milos in the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas! This dining experience is unlike any other I have seen in my travels. We were escorted through the wide selection of fresh fish flown in daily and sitting on ice. The chef asked us to select our various seafood choices and then he presented the best way to prepare each to bring out their delicate or robust flavors.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
My biggest travel pet peeve is people who shouldn’t travel or don’t know how to travel. I’ve shaken my head too many times when traveling where people don’t have a sense of common courtesy: they don’t adapt to the country they are visiting with complaints of “not enough English-speaking people,” “not enough American food options” or “things aren’t up to Canadian standards”. We need to educate people (even if they claim to be world travellers) that not all countries have or come to have the same level of standards as North America.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
AD: A hidden talent I have which many don’t know about is my handylady skills; I took woodworking, construction, electronics and more throughout high school and I enjoy helping my brother build additions onto his cabin or refinishing or refurbishing an old piece of furniture into something new and beautiful.
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
AD: I only fly in the window seat so that I have control of this; up if I want to peek out and see the world below and down if it is too hot or the glare is affecting my screen time.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
AD: On one of my early FAM trips to Thailand, I was tour leader for a group of travel agents who had never been to Southeast Asia. Typically, I would go through my “things to know” about FAM expectations, plus country and travelling tips upon arrival, but we had arrived on a red eye so I was allowing the group to catch a few Z’s between Bangkok and Hua Hin, Thailand, about a 3.5 hour drive. We stopped about half way to allow the agents to have a bio-break, stretch their legs or grab snacks for the rest of the ride and I had an agent come back to the bus with an extremely grossed-out expression on her face. I couldn’t help but ask “what’s wrong?”:
- Agent: “That was the most disgusting bathroom I have ever been in.”
- Me: “Really? I didn’t think it was that bad.”
- Agent: “Well, when I sat on the floor…it was all wet and muddy.”
- Me: “You are not supposed to sit over the hole but squat where you see the footprints.”
- Agent: “Nobody told me you weren’t supposed to sit!”
- Me: “I am so sorry!”
Lesson learned for me: update the group ahead of time no matter what – but I can’t help but giggle even writing this 20-plus years later!
PAX: What are should travel agents be aware of right now in regards to TravelBrands?
AD: We have added Air and Hotel packages to the various GDS platforms – our is code is TBA (TravelBrands Access). No matter how much we begged and pleaded for agents to use our TravelBrands Access site, some would still only shop through their GDS, so we have now created Air/Hotel Packages around the world. This gets our product in front of agents who didn’t want to use our agent exclusive website and allows us to be competitive against ITC packages in the same search.
Agents need to know that some of these products are non-refundable and they don’t include transfers (which will come in our final phase of the project), but you can book the transfers through our Add-Ons. Agents should also note they have the ability to earn higher commission on the land components by setting their own markup. To find these packages make sure you click “All Destinations” and “All Flights” on the first search screen of your preferred GDS.
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