With Lynda Westlake of Vision Travel, Port Hope, ON

Open Jaw

Though she’s lived in Canada since she was four years old, this travel pro says she still has the UK in her heart. Guess what she sells a ton of?

Where were you born? In Nottingham, England – I came here when I was four. I go back whenever I can to see family and friends.     

What was your first job? Working as a dog groomer, when I was 15. I got the job specifically to cure me of my fear of dogs – and it worked!

How long have you been in the business? Since 1984. I got into it as I always wanted to be a flight attendant, but got married and decided instead to take a travel agent course with Westervelt College in London. It included three months in a mock agency, role-playing, doing hand-written tickets.

Do you miss anything about the “good old days”? The commission, for sure. Most tour operators were 15%, international tickets 10%. And there were only three categories of fares back then.   

Tell me about your first airplane ride. On BOAC, emigrating to Canada.

How has the business changed since you got into it? It seems like every Tom, Dick and Harry can become an agent these days.  Back in the day we had to do a lot of training – plus now you can work from home.

Do you have a specialty? I like to sell Europe, especially the UK.  

If you could have any job in the business what would it be? I’d love to be a tour guide.

What was your best FAM? Participating on the annual Visit Scotland FAM – I’ve been a participant for four years. There’s a two-day trade show plus a three day FAM. You get to really network, meet wonderful suppliers and get some great FIT ideas.

Who do you most admire in the industry? Ian Cowan from Connection, specializing in battlefield tours. He has helped me with a pipe band tour and he knew everything. He’s very helpful.

What drives you crazy? People who call in and say they want to go on holiday but they don’t know where or when. Also, long hold times when you call a supplier.

What’s the first thing you do when you get into a hotel room? Look at everything, the bathroom amenities, the view.

Do you have any time management strategies? I’ll put posts on my social media feed when I’m waiting on hold.

What do you do to keep your clients loyal? Send welcome home letters, encourage them to send me photos and ask their permission to put them on my Facebook page. I also give them Tim Hortons gift cards for referrals.

If you had to spend six months in a destination, which one would you pick? Hmmm. Australia. Because it’s so big you wouldn’t want to go there for a couple of weeks.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? I’d be a tour guide, for sure. They have the best stories!

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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