Denise Harper has joined small group tour operator Exoticca as its new vice-president of sales for Canada, bringing more than 25 years of travel industry experience to the role.
Offering more than 300 trips in 60 destinations, Exoticca specializes in private and customizable travel at “truly unbelievable prices,” Harper told PAX. “We specialize in South America, Africa, Asia and Europe and all our trips include airfare, transfers, excursions and accommodations.”
Furthermore: “We pay agents full commission on the total package price including airfare and land,” she said.
"We are a disrupter"
Harper, who started her role on Nov. 29, said she is “very proud to be part of a company that is fully invested in North America.”
“I am excited not only by the product, but also that we are a disrupter in the space,” Harper said. “We have such a unique offering at incredible pricing. I know the agents will be blown away.”
“Everyone is recreating themselves and adjusting since the pandemic. We offer them the solution. Agents need to be paid and rewarded for all their hard work and we are committed in doing just this!”
Exoticca had been operating in the B2C space and, recently, launched to the trade.
As the vice-president of sales for Canada, Harper will work with the various consortiums, host agencies and individual travel agents to promote Exoticca’s product and to build the business together.
Exoticca will also be introducing a new agent portal in January, which will allow agents to book online in real time, Harper said.
Growth in North America
Harper is looking forward to returning to the industry and working with the “people I know and love.”
And, most of all, she’s eager to partner with agents and help them become successful “while supporting them with an incredible product that offers their clients something extremely unique,” she said.
The year 2021 has already seen “tremendous growth” in high-end travel, Harper added.
“In North America, our sales grew by over 300 per cent,” she said. “Travellers are looking for small groups where they have the flexibility to travel the way they feel most safe. With us, if they want to travel by bus, they can. If they prefer to take the train, that works too. If they want to upgrade their accommodation, no problem.”
“Our trips are customized to the individuals comfort level.”
Climbing to the top
Harper’s travel career has taken her to a suitcase full of exciting places, but her most memorable adventure, to date, was summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, she said.
Uhuru Peak – the highest peak on one of Kilimanjaro's three volcanic cones – is 5,895m (19,341 feet) and takes five days to reach.
“Every day you face various challenges,” Harper said. “Ever-changing terrains, rain, cold, exhaustion, altitude sickness and constant nausea…You are physically done. Your legs are beyond jelly.”
To reach the top, Harper said she had to “dig deep both emotionally and mentally to keep pushing myself forward.”
“I thought of my family and all the special, happy experiences we have shared,” she said. “That honestly gave me the inner strength to reach the top. Once you are there, the feeling of gratitude is beyond overwhelming. It’s very, very emotional.”