Biting Questions with Sharmil Goswami, Sales Manager North America, Exodus

Open Jaw

Where were you born? In Zambia.I’m of Indian heritage and my family lived there ‘til I was 4 when we moved to London. I have memories of elephants and tigers in my back yard, but I don’t think that’s true! My British accent surprises a lot of people but actually I think opens a lot of doors because it’s a talking point.  

How long have you been in the business? 13 years, starting with a retail travel agency in the U.K. I joined Exodus in sales/reservations in London, and came to Canada 4 years ago as Exodus GSA within Adventure Centre. We opened our own office in July of 2014.

How many people work for you? Six. A lot, considering it used to be just me!

What’s the best part of the job? Reaching people who have never been on this style of active holiday before. And working with agents too! We started thinking we’d have 6 or 7 agencies supporting us, but at last count 87 agencies have sold us. 60% of our sales are through agents, way higher than we expected.

What did you want to be as a kid? (laughs) A famous film director.   

What was your 1 st ever job? Collecting supermarket shopping carts and returning them to the store.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? Paragliding in South Africa over open water.  The deal was, you floated in the sky then dropped into the open water. Very safe, but still…

Any guilty pleasures? My sweet tooth.  If it’s sweet and in a wrapper and in my eyesight, I’ll have it. And since coming to Canada I’ve become a donut convert.

What’s your favourite airline? I really like AC. I’ve travelled with them extensively in the past 4 years and am always impressed by the courtesy of the staff. I’ve never been let down.

Favourite hotel? Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver. They provide in-room iPads that control your curtains, the TV – all the electronic toys you’d want.

What do people not know about you? At university I studied fine arts. I sketch a lot when I travel.

When were you happiest? When I’m travelling with my family. My 8 and 11 year old daughters now have Canadian accents, and my wife is Italian - so we are quite a cosmopolitan-sounding family!

Is there anything you won’t eat? I’ve never said “no thanks”, because in many countries you may offend your hosts. So I’ve eaten insects, snake, and…what was it? Oh yes, live octopus soup in Thailand.

What’s at the top of your bucket list? Kilimanjaro to celebrate my 50 th birthday.

Ever had a brush with fame? I was in a shop at Heathrow - probably buying a bar of chocolate! - and couldn’t make up my mind so signalled the person behind me to go ahead. It was [boxer] Mike Tyson, who was very pleasant about it.

What is your greatest extravagance?  Shoes. I don’t know why.

If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be? The surcharges on holidays during school breaks.  It’s exploitative.

If you could sit next to anyone on a long-haul flight, who would it be? George Clooney.  Seems a nice guy with an interesting life. He could introduce me to the world of George Clooney-ness.

Do you have a favourite charity? Baraka Community Partnerships. They do great stuff.

What will be the biggest challenge for the industry in the next 12 months? Finding clients for the Middle East and North Africa. Egypt, Tunisia and, unfortunately, Morocco and Jordan are all suffering.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years? Still hopefully in travel, perhaps running  a small tour operator allowing me to show people my favourite parts of the world such as Italy.

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