Pauline Blacoe

Open Jaw

Where were you born? In Ottawa.

What was your first job? I was a tour guide and elevator operator at the CN Tower when it first opened. I was….17? Obviously I have no fear of heights!  

How long have you been in the business?  About 17 years. Between the CN Tower and this, I worked from admin assistant up to accounts manager in the telecommunications business.   

Why the switch to travel? I had younger children and an elderly mother and I realized I couldn’t do it any more, not the commute and 14 hour days.  I saw an ad for a company looking for home based agents, went to a meeting and decided then that I wanted to get into the destination wedding business. My husband said I was absolutely crazy.  

But it worked out? Yes – 85-90% of my business is destination weddings. I’ve probably arranged some 300 of them – now I’m comfortable doing about 15 a year. My largest group to date was 102.

Weddings can be quite stressful – even for you! Have you had any particularly difficult ones that come to mind? The worst was a group, mainly from Alberta, who were supposed to go to Mexico.  But the H1N1 swine flu intervened, shutting all the resorts down just three weeks before the wedding. I managed to relocate them all to Jamaica. The hotel wasn’t able to accommodate the wedding on “the day” so I had to organize an off-site wedding as well. It was all pretty memorable!

Do you have favourite destinations you work with? For the last seven years I have focused on Jamaica. I’ve found that with, for example, dealing with local paperwork it’s so much easier than the Spanish-speaking countries, plus I love the people. I’m actually the number one seller of Jamaica in Canada, and number 4 in all of North America.

How often do you go to Jamaica? Typically at least six times a year.

How has the destination wedding business changed since you got into it? A lot! It used to be that the hotel groups departments handled the weddings – wedding co-ordinators didn’t exist! Now there are wedding departments with many coordinators. Back in the day, it was so simple: a bouquet, a boutonniere, a casual ceremony on the beach.  Now the brides are bringing their own table decorations – even their own flowers! And way more lavish, with much larger groups too.

If you could have any job in the business what would it be? I’d love to be a Jamaica Tourist Board Rep. Or a BDM for Couples or Jewel Resorts. But then as my husband says, I do like being my own boss!

What was your best fam? Honestly? St. Lucia a few years ago. I was new to the industry and it really impressed me.

Who do you most admire in the industry? Annika Klint. She was my mentor. Just awesome.

What drives you crazy?  Nosy parents! Ones who boss me around. I’ve learned that the best way to get around it is to tell the bride’s mother that you are the same generation as her and they’ll treat you as an equal.

Do you have any time management strategies? Not really. I’m a multi-tasker and do rely on a written to do list in a notepad.

What do you do to get referral business? I do a good job. I don’t do email blasts. My business is mainly word of mouth, but I belong to a lot of forums and groups on Facebook and get business from that.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?   Travelling (laughs). I’m dying to travel throughout Canada.  I’d love to be a gypsy and just move around.

If you or someone you know is a front-line travel agent in Canada would like to be featured in Biting Questions, please contact us.

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