with Jillian Bessette at CAA Saskatchewan in Prince Albert

Open Jaw

This Prairie girl loves her job – even though she may just have lived a previous life in Europe, her all-time favourite destination.

Where were you born? In a little town called Langenburg, Saskatechwan. About 1,200 people – a classic prairie town. 

What was your first job? Not at all in travel – it was at a catch-all shop that had Sears parcels, a hairdresser, trophy-engraving and flowers. I dabbled in all of the above.   

How long have you been in the business? Eight years as an agent. Before that I worked in Banff National Park and with Tourism Saskatchewan as part of the front line staff. I got into retail travel because we had just moved, the opportunity came up and I’ve always had a real interest in travel.

Tell me about your first airplane ride. We didn’t travel really at all as children, but I did a Saskatchewan/Alberta hop with WS when it was new. My first big trip was on Canada 3000 to Australia. That was multiple stops from Regina Airport!  

How has the business changed since you got into it? From a functioning perspective, the airlines and how we function from day to day. Plus travellers have become more savvy and there’s more diversity in requests that we get. And that’s a good thing. 

Do you have a specialty? I love to sell Europe by far, forever, all the time. It’s a personal interest as I have a huge passion for the history. I’ve travelled in Europe all kinds of ways, from backpacking to river cruising. A lot – but never enough!

If you could have any job in the business what would it be? If there were a way to research Europe and live and work there…I would do that! But I like the variety of this too.

What was your best fam? A Uniworld river cruise in Europe. I’ve never found someone who didn’t like a river cruise.

Who do you most admire in the industry? My boss Tom Brothwell. I’ve learned so much from him. He handles the challenges of it really well. 

What drives you crazy? People that presume that because they’ve spent an hour on Google that they know more than I do. We have to prove ourselves every day.

What’s the first thing you do when you get into a hotel room? Pull back the curtains and check out the view.  Take the bags out of the doorway so I can take a picture.

Do you have a magic sentence to close the sale? “Shall we make it official?”

What do you do to keep your clients loyal? Enthusiasm, I’d say. I think they want someone who cares.

If you had to spend six months in a destination, which one would you pick? I’d bounce between Paris and Rome and the German countryside.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? I would be finding a way to make money in my garden. 

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

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