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Whether it’s celebrating a milestone event or visiting a bucket-list destination, Jennifer McPherson loves making people’s travel dreams come true. While restrictions were still in place last year, she started planning ahead for a group tour departure to Ireland for September 2022. Upon announcing the trip it went over extremely well, making her realize that these challenging times would not keep people from travelling.
Throughout the last year, Jen has continued to deliver exceptional service for her clients and she goes above and beyond to make their travel dreams come true. She has stayed positive and has been very active on social media, inspiring her clients to plan and book future trips, whether it’s a cruise, a coach tour or another vacation experience. The work she’s put in over the last two years in very tough times will ensure she’s in a strong position to grow her loyal client base in the future. Thanks for all you do Jen.
Tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry? Why and how did you decide to become a travel advisor?
I am relatively new to the travel industry, only joining TravelOnly in 2017. I came from 20+ years in sales and marketing, particularly event marketing, so I was used to multi-tasking and dealing with demanding situations. I always loved to travel, starting at an early age with my dad. We took trips all over Canada, U.S. and the Caribbean. I then started to plan more extensive travel for my (now) husband and I (pre-kids) and now as a family. So when I wanted to transition to a career where I could stay flexible but combine my skill set with a passion, travel was an obvious choice. We live in Dundas, Ont. but my clients are all across Canada and although I do sell a bit of everything, I specialize in customized itineraries, group trips and premium cruising.
What’s your favourite part of being a travel agent?
I love making people’s travel dreams come true. I know that sounds corny but it is so rewarding to know that you helped someone create that precious travel story that will stay with them forever — whether it’s celebrating a milestone event or visiting a bucket-list destination or retracing their ancestry. When we talk at dinner parties or even at the end of our lives, it’s these stories that connect us and fill us with joy.
During my university years, I spent three months volunteering in Guyana, SA and that cemented my strong belief that travel has the power to really shape one’s perspective on the world and that we could solve a lot of our planet’s issues, if we truly experienced other countries and cultures. As the great traveller Anthony Bourdain once said, ‘Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. The journey changes you; it should change you.’
What got you through the pandemic?
The pandemic has hit everyone in the industry but I have great friends and family that were supportive, as well as terrific clients so I thankfully did not have some of the nightmare situations that were described on social media, etc. I took that downtime to really think about what I wanted my business to look like once travel rebounded since I really only had a few years under my belt where I basically took every inquiry and tried to learn as much as I could. My family and I also embraced domestic travel and did a lot more within Ontario, and even drove out west to B.C.
I started a monthly travel webinar with a few colleagues last year and a YouTube channel so that was a great way to stay connected during COVID. Because I had organized and hosted a large group trip to Scotland in Sept. 2019, I had a good base for my next Europe trip. Seeing that travellers would be more cautious with where they went, I started to plan last February for a group trip in Sept. 2022. Ireland was a top choice since it would be very safe relative to many other countries, it had direct flights from Toronto and many of my Scotland travellers were keen to go there. So I reached out to Royal Irish Tours, as I had a preliminary meeting with them in 2019, and we put together a fantastic itinerary. Once we launched that trip last March, the response was amazing and I knew that the pandemic would not keep people from travelling.
What trends are you noticing from the bookings you have?
People want and are willing to pay for safety right now so destinations that have had higher screening protocols, have been in demand as well as more premium/smaller ship cruising. Longer trips are very common as well since people have not been away for a couple of years.
Perhaps insurance was a difficult conversation in the past but now it’s just understood that everyone needs to be fully covered.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for travel advisors right now?
I am a big advocate for professional fees because of the value we provide so I would advise all of my fellow colleagues to understand their business proposition and their value, then embrace that confidence when starting to charge fees. The pandemic has shown us that as travel advisors, we will work tirelessly to help our clients so that alone is a great reason to implement a fee structure. Clients/travellers understand that we have been working hard for the past two years, so it is a perfect time as travel starts to pick up.
Can you share a special travel memory and what travel means to you?
As I mentioned, my early travel memories are with my dad. Well, a special travel memory was the one that was to be his last. Sadly, he was diagnosed with ALS in 2019 but I was able to take him with me on my Scotland group trip and that was such a magical experience. Our ancestors are from there and his brother also joined us. I was so thankful to give him that wonderful experience mere months before he passed. That is what I mean when I say that these travel stories can be so powerful. We will always have those great memories and connections.
What’s still on your travel must do list?
Well, that’s a long list! I turn 50 this year so I had planned a bucket list trip to the Galapagos and the Amazon with my family, which I am very much looking forward to. I have been to Africa a couple of times but want to go back and see the gorillas, as well as some of the expedition trips like Antarctica. Australia/New Zealand, Iceland, Croatia, Indonesia and Japan are also on my list. As travel resumes, I will continue to build up my group trips by hosting my signature European tour every fall, a bigger adventure trek such as Africa every two years and adding a new, annual women’s trip.
Do you have anything to add?
We all love travel and work very hard to keep our clients happy and safe, however, we often do not spend enough time to work smarter. I would recommend to my colleagues to not try to be ‘all things to all people’ as the impending ‘travel tsunami’ comes. Know what you want to be, build your business accordingly and don’t be afraid to say ‘no thank you.’
|Travel Agents, this May It's all about you!|
|Smaller corporate agencies and independents with corporate clients – listen up!|
|INCENTIVES | CONTESTS | WEBINARS | PODCASTS | EVENTS | JOBS|