Char’s Hummingbird Travel, Saskatoon
“Charlene is a newer agent with Fareconnect. She works tirelessly to market her business and continuously networks to help new clients fulfill their travel dreams. She applies the utmost of care and attention to detail when looking after her clients, and her work ethic is noticed by all.”
Trafalgar and Costsaver Sales Manager for Manitoba and Saskatchewan
Meet Charlene Altenberg
Tell us a little bit about yourself, how long you’ve been in the industry and what made you want to become a travel agent?
I was nearing the end of my 27 year career as an Educational Assistant, didn’t have any grandkids at the time, and was wondering if I was ready for retirement. I was always kind of the go-to person for a lot of family and friends when it came to travel. Always had an interest and passion in researching and sharing my research on different destinations. So, I did a bit more research, talked to a few experienced agents, and decided to join the awesome Fareconnect team. This coming June will be my fourth full year in the travel business.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I really enjoy doing the research, and sharing in the excitement my clients feel about travelling. But my favourite part of the job is, being a part of their planning, and seeing their bucket list or family reunions or celebrations come to fruition through the experience and adventure of travel.
How has travel impacted your own life?
My grandpa’s trips back to Norway are what really started my inspiration to travel. I was probably in elementary school and he had recently been to Norway to visit his family there. He gave me a couple of Norwegian Krone and a postcard from Bergen. Those precious pieces of my grandpa were used for a school assignment and in Grade 7, I did a presentation on Norway, and at the end of that assignment I made a promise, in writing, that, “someday I will visit Norway!” That dream came true in September 2016.
How are you coping in this crazy COVID-19 world? What are you focusing on right now?
COVID-19 has tested us in so many ways. Working through cancellations, postponed bucket list trips, special celebrations, has been very taxing, stressful and tiring, both physically and emotionally. Keeping in touch with my clients with ever changing updates, and in return, them showing their appreciation for that connection has really helped a lot. I get outside, get my walk in almost everyday, we’ve had a lot of snow to deal with as well, and I love a good shovelling snow workout. I focus really hard on staying calm, trying to look for the positive, and taking my business one client, one booking, one day at a time. Once I get through all of my upcoming bookings that have been affected, I will continue to work on new and updated training with suppliers. And most of all, I will continue to focus on staying connected with my past and future clients.
Prior to all this, what were some of the big trends you were noticing in travel or that your clients were looking for from a getaway?
This past year, I had several clients that were wanting to do their own bucket list destinations. For some that was river cruises, South Africa adventures, self-drive itineraries in Iceland and New Zealand, seeing a favourite musician live in concert, in Caribbean destinations. I guess several of my clients were trading in their week or two away from our Saskatchewan winter for bigger trips.
How many countries have you been to and where would you like to go next when we can travel again?
My husband and I have been blessed to experience 16 countries together. In the big picture, 16 isn’t really a very big number, but we are very grateful for every one of those 16 memorable adventures. Our next adventure is to catch up on trips that have been affected by COVID. We were supposed to do an Avalon Mekong River cruise in March, then Oberammergau, Germany in September 2020, and South Africa in Feb/March 2021. Those are the first destinations on our list, hopefully very soon.
What’s a big misconception people have about travel agents?
That it will cost them more money to book with an agent.
Do you have anything to add?
Travel is such an amazing way to get to know, and experience our big, beautiful world. There is so much personal value in getting to know a destination, taste the food, meet the locals, get out there and “experience” the experience. I really believe travel helps us to better understand each other, and hopefully close the gap in our differences. Whenever I hear someone say, “I won’t ever get to travel there,” I share my story about getting to Norway. My dream started at a very young age. Then when I was probably 30ish, I shared my dream and said it out loud to my husband, and then was probably 45ish, when I wrote it down on paper, and shared it with my grandma, my kids, my parents. Then finally it came true. Dreams can come true, it’s up to you to make it happen, and I’m here to help them take that first step in making it a reality.
I am truly humbled and honoured to have received this nomination. I mentioned to Ann, from Canadian Travel Press, that it was a very positive, pick me up to receive her email. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Canadian Travel Press, a big thank you to whoever nominated me, and an extra big thank you to my Fareconnect family for all of their guidance, leadership and support over the past four years, and especially over the past few weeks. Their support has been invaluable to me, and without them, I would not have experienced the success I have had in the past four years. Take very good care and hope we can all get out there and back to exploring soon.