Vera N. Held, B.A. Eng., Cert. PR., Tesl Cert., M.Ed.
Coach, facilitator, speaker, writer and PR consultant.
Author of international best-seller "How Not to Take it Personally".
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by Vera N. Held

To dine with a glacier on a sunny day is a glorious thing and makes feasts of meat and wine ridiculous. The glacier eats hills and drinks sunbeams.
- Scottish-born naturalist and explorer, John Muir

Do you have a yen to work in travel? Professionals in the field have two things in common: making clients happy and exploring the world.

If you’ve ever been hit with that insidious travel bug, you’re not alone. Take 27-year-old Corby Saltzman, an assistant team leader with Flight Centre. “I chose tourism to see the world. I love talking to people. It’s a fantastic business.”

But rewards for Saltzman come biggest when he helps couples who have been saving for years toward that once-in-a-lifetime dream trip. “I worked solid for a week and a half to plan a trip for a couple who had been saving for eight years.”

When the thrilled couple returned from their Hawaiian cruise and overland stay in Maui, they shared with him their whole trip— including eight roles of film. “We’re not just travel agents. We’re friends and we listen,” explains Saltzman.

So, travel is the “nice people” business. It’s also a business that requires fortitude and creativity. According to John Walker, dean of hospitality and tourism at George Brown College “there’s a travel job for everyone.”

Currently enroled in the Centre for Hospitality and Tourism Management Program at George Brown are 875 students— a 35 percent increase from 2000. 2002 Graduates had an 84.5 percent job placement rate. Commission, bonus plus industry perks and incentives like “familiarization tours”, where travel agents visit new destinations at discount rates, add to the appeal of the profession.

Walker says he believes that although we’ve gone through one of the toughest times in history, tourism is simply not going away. “Because Toronto’s had such a tough time, it’s forced us think differently about tourism products,” explains Walker.

One such growing travel niche is “culinary tourism” which links food and travel. “Someone who grows fresh herbs could not only develop local product but also garden tours, cooking classes and product for export.” A symposium to dialogue and share best practices is planned for April 2004.

Brad Dean, 31, show manager for the Toronto Travel and Leisure Show, which marks its 20 th year this April, says he believes that although susceptible to market ups and downs, the industry is saleable and in revenue recovery. In 2002, Toronto received 14.3 million domestic visitors, 3.2 million U.S. visitors and 1.4 million overseas visitors resulting in $4.1 billion in direct spending according to Statistics Canada.

Dean, who got into travel because of his interest in global economics, expects crowds of over 20,000 at the Fall show which starts November 6 th at the International Centre. “To learn more about where you want to go, representatives from over 30 countries will be there to help.”

“Learning” appears to be an integral motivator for getting into travel. High school student Tom Nobbe, 17, who earns school credits for his work at the Owen Sound Tourism Office says he is certain he wants a career in tourism because there’s always something going on. “I’m interested to see how people are drawn into things. Through someone else’s eyes, I see what my city has to offer, and so I learn new ways to promote it.”

Manager of Odyssey Learning Travel in Kingston, Anna Kovachis, 45, went to Europe at 18 — and fell in love. “I fell in love with travel because I love to learn. Learning is travel; travel is learning.” Kovachis who designs enrichment travel programs for seniors utilizes historians, museum curators, authors and artists, all of whom feed her knowledge-hungry participants. “We go behind the scenes to introduce people to the history and culture of an area.”

Since her early 20s, former Humber College professor, Anne Brobyn, 49, had been traveling to the Caribbean. She developed college-level courses on its multi-cultural aspects, and then in 1990 opened “The Travel School” which trains tour operators in travel product marketing.

Now, she’s leveraged her skills to become the Canadian market development officer for Caribbean Tourism. “This is my dream job — and I don’t have to mark papers,” she says. Her tangible successes, too, can be measured; in 2003, the Caribbean boasted a 38% increase in visitors. Moreover says Brobyn, “I got into travel because of the lifestyle.”

Zoologist Catherine Evans, 42, is all for lifestyle choices. Twice as busy this year as she was last, an energetic Evans runs Tours of Exploration in Gibsons, B.C., a 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver. Here, she combines her love of animals with her desire to explore the natural world. “I want to see animals in the wild, and to visit areas rich in culture and archeology.”

So, on November 4 th, she leads a group to Churchill, Manitoba, polar bear capital of the world. Artist and naturalist Robert Bateman previously hosted her tours to South East Asia, and geneticist and environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki hosted her tour of the Galapagos. “Travel fills me with a great sense of wonder and gives me a sense of balance.”

Enthusiastic to be part of this balanced “life and travel perspective”, and to participate in her clients’ wellness and rejuvenation, is Anne de Gobeo, 39, director of marketing at Sam Jakes Inn in Merrickville, 45 minutes from Ottawa on the Rideau Canal. “I’ve been in tourism for 18 years but the Inn business is my best fit.”

The intimate and personal experience of serving clients in a country setting where no two days are ever the same is what has turned on de Gobeo for the past 12 years. “It’s a wonderfully satisfying feeling to help stressed, busy people move into a happier state of mind.” But warns de Gobeo, “you’ve got to be patient and to enjoy people.”