“It is with great pleasure that I would like to nominate home-based travel agent Shirley Noel, as one of Collette’s outstanding agent partners. Shirley has been a role model agent, always going the extra mile to support her clients. She is extremely knowledgeable and works tirelessly to ensure everyone’s needs are met. Even through these challenging times we are currently facing with COVID-19, Shirley has shown incredible emotional intelligence and resilience. Despite the uncertainty of the future and if she’ll have a paycheque at the end of the month, Shirley assisted her Collette Costa Rica group into re-booking for 2021 and is still keeping her spirits up! We thank her for her hard work and look forward to continuing to enhance the lives of her clients through travel.”
Business Development Manager, Manitoba & Saskatchewan, Collette
Meet Shirley Noel
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 have been in the industry now for just over 12 years. I worked as a pharmacy technician for 30 years previously and decided I needed a change. I was trying to determine exactly what it was I would like to do and realized it always came back to one thing. My passion was travel. I had always been a social person and one of my stronger skill sets is organization and planning. After some research I realized that it was possible to be a home-based advisor. It seemed like the perfect fit being my own boss, planning and organizing travel all while making people happy. I joined TPI and the rest is history.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I have to say it would be the excitement and gratitude my clients show as the plan of their dream trip all starts coming together. I feel it and it just fuels my passion. I also love that I learn something new every day. All the learning and planning of a trip often makes you feel like you have just been there yourself.
How has travel impacted your own life?
My niche is escorted group travel and I host a lot of groups. I get to travel to many destinations I would never have had the opportunity to experience otherwise. Many who travel with me are repeat clients and I have developed a bond and friendship with them that has truly enriched my life. Discovering the world while making new friends is like living the dream for me.
How are you coping in this crazy COVID-19 world? What are you focusing on right now?
I am surprisingly feeling fairly positive that this will pass and that travel will rebound with a vengeance. Our head office team have gone over and above with support daily and have done everything in their power to make things as easy as possible. Being home-based could easily have left us feeling lost and alone, however, it has been the complete opposite with all the support we have received from our fearless leaders. We are more connected as advisors than we have ever been. It will not be easy but we are resilient and will survive.
I am using the time to catch up on new training, cleaning up files and trying to work on more efficient ways to do things going forward that I simply didn’t have the time to do previously. I have also started building my groups for 2021.
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 was seeing interest in guided travel increase. Clients seemed to want to get to know more, not only about the culture and history of a destination but there was a growing need to experience the destination from a local point of view. They want to eat, drink and do as the local people do. I noticed many tours offering more of those experiences. The demand was there for both luxury and budget tours.
Have you had any interesting or strange requests from clients?
One of the most interesting requests I ever had in travel was from a colleague. I worked with my colleague going to veterinary colleges across Canada to do presentations and recruit veterinary nurses who would want to have the unique experience of doing their practicum training in South Africa. We found the hosts in South Africa and looked after all their travel. It was an amazing experience for these nurses and very interesting and rewarding work for me. Eventually the price became too much for students to justify and it slowly stopped.
How many countries have you been to and where would you like to go next when we can travel again?
I have now visited 26 countries and had four more scheduled to visit in the next three months, however the virus changed all that. I have only begun to explore Asia so would like to visit Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in the near future. Africa is most definitely on my to do list as well.
What’s a big misconception people have about travel agents?
I often hear people tell me that they had never used a travel agent before because they heard they were very expensive and they only do what you can do online yourself. They then come back and tell us how pleasantly surprised they are to have discovered what a great value a travel agent offers.