This Canadian transplant realized her passion for the travel industry as a teenager working in a family member’s fly-in fishing lodge. Today, as the director of contracting for one of the world’s largest tour companies, Stephanie and her team help keep the Globus product pointed in the right direction. Learn her story in this edition of Take 5.
How did you get into the tourism business?
I was planning to go into the teaching field to become either a primary or middle school teacher. That had always been more of a passion to me. I helped pay my way through university by working at a fly-in fishing lodge in northern Ontario on the Albany River. I did all sorts of odd jobs—everything from greeting guests to cleaning cabins to helping in the kitchen. After three summers there, I realized that I really enjoyed this part of the industry, so I moved to Vancouver and went back to school with a focus on tourism management.
At the time Capilano College was one of the few in Canada that focused on tourism management and gave me a really broad outline of everything from marketing to advertising to how to package a tour
I’m guessing as a teenager there’s not a whole lot of entertainment options at the lodge, so what was your inspiration behind working there?
It was an easy sell because an uncle of mine owned the lodge and he recruited me. So my parents were comfortable with me being out there. It was a unique experience because at the time it was very remote. There was no Internet. There were no traditional phone lines. We would fly in 50 to 60 miles by bush plane and we were there until the fall. I think I saw “Dances with Wolves” a dozen times every summer. I can practically recite that entire movie. But we worked really hard, we were on seven days a week and really had to embrace meeting new people every week.
What was the confluence of events that led you to Globus?
I was working for an F.I.T. receptive tour operator in Vancouver. But after 9/11 the impact was definitely far and wide, even where I was working. Soon, that company shut down and I went to work for a small consulting firm. The opportunity to work for Globus came about because people I had worked with in the past knew I might be interested.
So that was your first real exposure into the U.S. market?
Absolutely. It was not only my first opportunity to work in the U.S., it was my first opportunity to work for a large international company with a group focus.
What do you miss most about Canada?
Having just been back to Vancouver this past week, one of the things I have really missed about living in that city is the amazing walkability. You have anything and everything in terms of food and culture at your fingertips. One of my favorites is Granville Island. I would go down to the market and get fresh produce and just enjoy being down by the water. I miss that. Denver is a fantastic city and it’s been growing by leaps and bounds since I moved here 10 years ago. There’s so much to do here, but I certainly miss being near the water and the walkability that Vancouver boasts.
Most suppliers would love to do business with Globus. How does that feel from a product development standpoint?
Well, it’s certainly a fun position to be in. It’s also humbling because we are a company that people want to work with and I’m proud to work for a company that has a reputation like that. We have a big responsibility when it comes to how we represent our company and how we work with our suppliers. The great thing about the team here is that we all take that responsibility seriously and we enjoy it. We want to be out there learning about what opportunities there are and we want to be able to send suppliers business if we can and work with them on new opportunities.
Does that come back to bite you when a random hotel property is pitching you to bring new business their way when you don’t have a tour within 200 miles?
[laughs] That happens often. The thing is we have to be thinking long range. Are there opportunities down the road? Because the market changes, the product changes, so you can’t close off any opportunity. When we’re presented with those situations where there’s a destination or a hotel that really wants to work with us and it really doesn’t make sense, we try to think about, ‘Well, could it make sense? What happens if two years from now I need that location or that hotel?’ We try to approach it with some sensitivity and make sure we’re giving people the opportunity to at least tell us about their locations.
We also try to be honest because I don’t want to lead people on, so if there’s really just no opportunity, I try to be straightforward and say, ‘Now may not be the right time and we really don’t have anything to your area, but I’ll keep your information on file and who knows?’ I’ve learned this is a small industry and people move around a lot so you never know when there is going to be opportunity. It’s as much about building the relationships.
How do you decide on new destinations or if there needs to be a change in an existing itinerary?
We have four product managers that are steering the direction of the itineraries and destination development. They are looking at trends in the marketplace. We ask travelers what they want. We look at what competitors are doing and that extends beyond direct competitors. There are other operators out there that are doing unique, good work in our market. We are getting information from convention visitor bureaus, understanding what trends they are seeing in their destination. We also work with our business development managers that are out in the field and listening to agents and group leaders all the time, getting valuable pieces of information. It’s really about keeping our eyes and ears open so that we can anticipate and even drive the direction.
Anything new and interesting coming down the pipeline that you would like to disclose?
We’re holding pretty close to the vest, though I can tell you that we will launch a couple new tours in the U.S. market this fall for both Globus and Cosmos. And then we always make tweaks. We get quite a bit of feedback from our travelers, they submit their tour reports to us and we use that information to help guide whether we make changes or not. Often the subtle changes that are in an itinerary are driven by actual passenger feedback.
Where have you been recently that has pleasantly surprised you?
One of the places I enjoyed very much was Santa Fe. We took a group of our top producers there and that was the first time I’ve been there for any length of time. It was just a really wonderful experience because it had something for everyone. There were delightful food experiences; history; we were out to spend some time at Bandelier National Park. There was just such a diverse combination of experiences, everyone really enjoyed it.
You’re on the board of ABA. I look at somebody like yourself – busy family life, crazy work schedule – how do you fit that?
I think that an organization like ABA is very important in our industry. It allows all these different voices to come together at the table and to work towards this collective idea of making things better for our industry. For me it’s important to be able to not only attend the marketplace every year with my team, but sitting on the board allows me to bring my voice to those collective communications. It’s an amazing learning opportunity.