Flight Centre Penticton, Penticton, BC
“Shawna has been with Flight Centre in Penticton for six years. She consistently stays late in order to get everything out as thoroughly as possible for her clients. She works tirelessly, and always with the most upbeat, positive attitude. Every time she reaches out she is respectful, understanding, accurate, and eager. She is always willing to do what is best for her client, even if it isn’t what is best for her. Shawna truly goes above and beyond with every booking being treated the same — whether it is a world tour, or a domestic flight. If you can, book through Shawna, it is guaranteed she will work until the end to make sure your holiday is amazing.”
GM of the Americas, On The Go Tours
Meet Shawna Irish
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’ve been a travel agent with Flight Centre for a little over six years now. After graduating from university for something completely unrelated to travel, I soon realized that I wasn’t passionate about my chosen field. My true passion has always been travel. This included everything from the physical aspect of exploring new countries, to looking at maps and compasses, to reading and learning about places around the world. I knew that I needed to find a career that I could be excited about every day.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
My favourite part is definitely all of the travelling I get to do. And I’ve been very fortunate to do a lot! Getting the opportunity to go to places that maybe weren’t necessarily on my “list” is truly what I love the most and what keeps me motivated. I’ve been lucky enough to do a handful of fam trips. They are wonderful opportunities our suppliers offer us where you not only get to go somewhere spectacular and learn new things, but you are grouped with other agents from around the world. Because of these experiences, I have created so many new friends from all over.
How has travel impacted your own life?
Travel has had a huge impact on my life. Sometimes I feel like it’s all I think about. Dreaming about where to go next, looking back on my old photos, watching travel documentaries. It definitely occupies most of my brain on a daily basis even when I’m not working. Having the opportunity to travel has given me an appreciation, understanding and awareness for other people, cultures and their way of living. I feel like travel has made me more patient, flexible, accepting and grateful. It has taught me that sometimes it is just as important to have patience, relax and go with the flow. That it is okay if something doesn’t go the way you planned.
How are you coping in this crazy COVID-19 world? What are you focusing on right now?
Currently, I am just focusing on each day. Keeping up to date on the information provided but not allowing myself to overload on too many details. My team at Flight Centre and I are making sure we are all there for each other and doing as much as we can for our clients. When this all started, things were quite hectic and extremely stressful at work. Now that we are working from home and life has slowed down a lot — I’m trying to appreciate this time as best as I can by reading more, taking time to relax outside to enjoy the sun and only putting my energy into what I know I can change.
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?
I’ve noticed people are becoming more aware of their impact on the world and how tourism can make a difference. For example, travelling with companies that are more environmentally conscious and how they are giving back to local communities can really help make someone’s decision when comparing which tour company to travel with.
Have you had any interesting or strange requests from clients?
I had some clients returning to a hotel they had been to before and they requested to be by the “monkey tree.” Now, I figured if I put that request on their documents they probably wouldn’t end up by the so-called monkey tree, so I had to dig a little deeper. Luckily, they were able to describe perfectly where the room was located so I called the resort directly. The lovely hotel staff at the front desk put me on hold so she could actually go run out to the rooms to try and figure out exactly which room they were referring to. She came back on the line and said, “Yes! They are correct; we have a monkey tree apparently! I didn’t even know!”
How many countries have you been to and where would you like to go next when we can travel again?
I’ve been to 35 countries so far. I was scheduled to go to Norway in May and I’m hoping to get the chance to go there once this all settles down (and be able to add another country to my list.) But honestly, I’d be happy with being able to go anywhere!
What’s a big misconception people have about travel agents?
Occasionally, when someone finds out I’m a travel agent I have heard them say, “People still use travel agents?” Some people feel that there is no longer a need for us because of the internet and think that we are being replaced by online companies. However, I feel like it’s actually becoming the opposite. People are overwhelmed with all of the choices, options, and prices presented online. I believe people like having that reassurance, confidence and security when they come in to book at a travel agency.
Do you have anything to add?
All of this uncertainty in the world right now is so confusing. It’s a little unsettling with everything going on right now to think about what’s to come. How long the world will be put on hold and how we will come out on the other side of this? What will become the new normal after all of this? We may need to take a little break and let the world heal. Things may be very different in the future… but one thing I know is that people will always want to travel. And when it’s safe to do so again, we will.