Remembering “The Good Old Days” in the Canadian Travel Industry
PS Holidays Was A Prairies Success Story
It’s so tempting for the ITC guys to look at the big cities and put all their lift where the people are… then look at the smaller centres to fill in the gaps. But years ago there was a company which not only made its bread and butter on the Prairies: it thrived from its base at YWG and selling travel exclusively in central Canada.
That company was PS Holidays, and like so many travel companies in this country it morphed over the years – but former employees are not only still around, they’re still in the industry.
They include Pat Rachey, now retired but staying involved with the industry as an independent agent with Ixtapa Travel in Winnipeg. Pat was PS’s General Manager, joining the company in 1990. “PS was actually the initials of the 2 founders of the company, Gordon Paulson and Gavin Scott,” she recalls. “Prior to working with them I was in sales with Wardair, which is how I got to know Gordon Paulson because he used Wardair for his charter program to Hawaii.” Gavin Scott was promoting Mexico at the time. They used “every airline under the sun” and then started working with the shiny new Canada 3000 for their lift.
“I think the key to our success was that we were Manitoba-based and hired all local people and everyone knew everyone – it was one big family. We were very agent-friendly and the agents used to call us to make bookings even after they could book in their own CRS, just so they could chat. There wasn’t a lot of competition back then either. We ran programs to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan and then introduced new destinations into the market such as the Mayan Riviera. I remember my mother travelling there in the mid-1990s and saying that it was very nice, but that they needed more hotels!”
Another PS innovation was introducing all-inclusive product to central Canada, especially after it was acquired by Toronto-based ITH Group (which included Adventure Tours). It was initially a tough sell in a value-oriented market where 2 wk. holidays to efficiency-equipped accommodation was the norm.
Another ex-PS staffer is Corwin Kostenchuk, now General Manager of Ixtapa. “I was the sales manager for over 20 years, selling in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and northwest Ontario. We were famous for our product launches which were more of a crazy party than an educational seminar the way they are today. The food, the liquor! We used to give away 5 or 6 trips a night, and one time even gave away a car! We knew the agents so well, when they got married or had a baby.”
Kostenchuk also recalls the importance of the rural clientele to PS. “We had lots of farmers. There’s a misconception that farmers have no money: they actually have both time and money, once they got their crops in. They loved Mexico and not the cheap stuff either!”
The ITH Group (which also included Fiesta West, Fiesta Holidays and Sol-Vac) was eventually sold to U.K. interests and rebranded across the country as Signature... and later was acquired by Sunwing.
And so the evolution continues!
Do you have memories of PS Holidays? We’d love to hear from you.