Pax Global Media
The Monday Minute is a weekly feature in PAX that highlights the movers, shakers, leaders and rule breakers in Canada's travel advisor community. Wanna be profiled? Wanna nominate someone? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Name: Gina Afan
Business: Transat Travel Ladner
Where do you live? Richmond, B.C.
How long have you been a travel advisor? Too long! It’ll be 35 years in September.
What is your specialty?
A bit of everything, but I do a lot of customization, ocean and river cruising.
What is your current state of mind?
Overwhelmed! Not enough time in the day. It’s been a bit of a blur between March 2020 and now.
What inspired you to become a travel advisor?
I know it’s cliché but I do enjoy making people’s dreams come true!
What’s the first trip you ever took?
Back in the early ’80s I took a trip to Japan and Taiwan. It opened my eyes to travel and I never turned back.
What travel trends are you seeing these days?
People are willing to spend money for convenience and comfort. A lot more multigenerational travel. I'm also getting more and more requests from millennials. They realize the value of the travel professional. People were a bit nervous this past year, the booking window was shorter. Now, I’m getting requests for bookings nine to 16 months in advance. People are also booking longer trips. Anywhere from four to five weeks instead of ten to 14 days. More people are using the services of a professional travel consultant. They’re not as confident booking online as they were before. Travellers are also more accepting of our professional fees.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you do business?
Selling insurance is not as challenging as it was before COVID. This should always be included in any quote or consultation. I really have to ensure clients understand the terms and conditions. I tend to take more time to explain what they’ve purchased and ask if they have any questions. I think it’s better to provide tidbits of good information, whether it’s a good restaurant or feedback from other clients, as it makes them feel important and respected. With so much more customization, I’m able to charge higher professional fees.
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary are you most proud of?
There have been some really challenging and memorable itineraries, but the most memorable was a Trans-Siberian trip from Beijing to Moscow and customizing the extension in Russia with cities I couldn’t even pronounce. This trip was more than five weeks long.
What’s the most memorable trip you ever took?
I’ve escorted two trips to Vietnam and Cambodia. The people are warm, friendly and humble. The war time stories told by the local guides left a lasting impression. I’m grateful for the country we live in.
Where do you see your career one year from now?
I hope to be booking more luxury travel and travelling more as countries open up.
What’s one thing you would change about the travel industry?
Shorter hold times, please!
What’s the secret to being successful in this business?
Keep in touch with your clients. Be interested and sincere. Be knowledgeable, try to keep on top of new trends.
What is your motto?
Travel now, why wait? You don’t know what tomorrow has in store.
What is your number one piece of advice to other travel advisors?
Listen. Listen to your customer. Hearing is not the same as listening. Listen and ask questions. I guess that’s two things.
Where are you travelling next?
Hong Kong and Seoul!
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