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 email@example.com!
Name: Leanne Toushan
Business: Direct Travel – Independent Virtuoso Travel Advisor
Where do you live? Peterborough, ON
How long have you been a travel advisor? 37 Years. I started in 1986 at Eaton’s Travel in Pickering, ON, where I learned to book flights from an Air Canada ReserVec, issue hand-written airline tickets and sell hotels from a massive publication called an OHG. It was originally a placement position during a two-year Travel Counselling Course at Centennial College. They hired me and that's where it all began. I've worked in the travel industry my entire career.
What is your specialty?
Bespoke travel that is unique and individualized experiences for my clients. I have a high-level of experience and expertise in European river cruises and ocean cruises
What is your current state of mind?
Life is short. Take the trip, buy the shoes, eat the cake.
What inspired you to become a travel advisor?
I fell in love with travel as a young girl growing up. My first air flight inspired me and was where my true passion for travel was ignited. To this day I still get a shiver of excitement, looking out of the window as the plane touches down in a faraway destination. I always knew I had to have a career in this industry.
What’s the first trip you ever took?
The first time I ever boarded an airplane was when I was 12 years old. It was an Air Canada flight to Nassau, Bahamas. My parents and I stayed at the Flagler Inn on Paradise Island. I believe the tour operating was Skylark, circa 1978. Up to that point it was multiple road trips across Canada and the United States in vintage automobiles or the family sedan.
What travel trends are you seeing these days?
The pandemic created a pent-up demand for travel. Clients are booking the luxury vacations they had always dreamed of taking one day. The Amalfi Coast, Santorini and Lisbon/Porto have been popular along with European river cruises and Mediterranean cruises. Clients are booking multiple trips up to two-years in advance. Multi-generational travel and groups of friends travelling together is also a trend I am seeing.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you do business?
In my 37-year-long career in travel, I had gotten into the management side of the business. While rewarding in career development, it had taken me further away from the excitement and joy of selling travel and working directly with clients. So I left management behind and became a Virtuoso independent travel advisor. It was absolutely the right decision. The pandemic was an awakening.
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary are you most proud of?
I looked after the travel arrangements for a large group of Shriners travelling to Russia on a river cruise. I oversaw all of the details, including driving their passports to the Russian consulate for Visa entry, hosting a document pick-up party, seeing them off at the airport, arranging special activities in destination, and hosting a party for the group upon return so they could share their photos and memories. It was a huge success that created loyal clients and repeat business.
What’s the most memorable trip you ever took?
One of the most incredible trips I ever took was a Windstar Cruise in Tahiti. The natural beauty of the destination is breathtaking. Swimming with sharks and stingrays in their natural habitat is an awakening experience. Watching spinner dolphins, and snorkeling in the most vivid display of nature are memories I will always cherish. Sailing on an intimate luxury sailing vessel is the perfect way to experience the Tahitian Islands.
Where do you see your business one year from now?
In the next year, I am focused on networking in Peterborough, my new community. I plan to host a series of travel events, and travel to a destination I have never experienced. Australia is calling me.
What’s one thing you would change about the travel industry?
The airlines need to bring sexy back to air travel. Unfortunately, the airport and flight experience is the downer of most vacations.
What’s the secret to being successful in this business?
Creating memorable experiences and building strong relationships with clients and suppliers.
What is your motto?
I'm here to bring the excitement and glamour back to your vacay.
What is your number one piece of advice to other travel advisors?
Travel whenever you get the opportunity to do so. Nothing compares to first-hand experience.
Where are you travelling next?
A 10-day Southern Caribbean Celebrity cruise.