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 email@example.com!
Name: Lois Hirtz
Business: TravelOnly with Lois
Where do you live? Kamloops, B.C.
How long have you been a travel advisor? 10 years
What is your specialty? Cruises (both river and ocean), all-inclusive resorts and travel insurance (don’t leave home without it!)
What is your current state of mind?
Busy and happy! It is so exciting to have the world open again.
What inspired you to become a travel advisor?
I am a retired WestJet employee and saw this as a way to keep my travel world going. My Dad was a bush pilot. I grew up on the tarmac and have the family affliction and passion for travel.
What was the first trip you ever took?
Not sure if this was my first trip, but it was definitely the most memorable. The trip was with my parents and brother to the Northwest Territories and Yukon in northern Canada for a fly-in, in Inuvik, for pilots. We climbed into Dad’s Aztec (my favourite of all his aircraft) and got comfy for the long flight ahead. Experiencing the far north was incredible. Flying over the McKenzie Delta seemed to go on forever. Mom would wake me up to look. I’d look, puke and go back to sleep. Dawson City, Inuvik, Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk were each fascinating in their own right. In Tuktoyaktuk, we watched an Inuit woman cleaning a whale and harvesting the flesh and blubber. Their world of survival is rugged, harsh and incredible. Going into the community deep freezes that were carved out of the frozen tundra was a far cry from our electric deep freezes at home plugged into the wall. In Inuvik, we were entertained by the Inuit’s for a wonderful evening, including a midnight airshow by some of the pilots, in the “land of the midnight sun.” We ended our trip in Atlin on Atlin Lake (still one of my favourite places on earth). It is absolutely stunning looking across the lake at the mountains. It can take your breath away.
What travel trends are you seeing these days?
Europe and river cruises have been extremely busy. It’s been very exciting working on so many European destinations and diving into each place or stop along a river cruise – The Rhine, Danube, Douro, Moselle have been my targeted interests. The Nile also, but it’s so popular, it’s difficult to find enough space to create a group. Each river has a unique culture as does each cruise line. The ocean cruises have also had great interest and are some nice getaways to beat the winter doldrums.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you do business?
COVID was a massive learning curve for all of us! How to process all the cancellations, future travel credits, insurance policies, etc. Now, with travel opened up and time limits on their FTCs, people are getting those bookings rebuilt. I think getting back into the groove of positive travel was like getting the water off the bottom of the well again. We were tossed into the open-world almost overnight. Policies and procedures had changed. Insurance policies were changing constantly throughout COVID and now we’re back to a solid program. Airlines are still giving us a run for our money, getting their flight schedules sorted out. Patience has been a virtue for all aspects of travel.
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary are you most proud of?
I am working with a large group of women heading to New Zealand next month for the International Dragon Boat Festival. This is very humbling for me to be working with these women. The only way to be on a Dragon Boat team is to be a cancer survivor. Down deep in their souls they have grit and fight to win. I can’t wait to hear that they’ve won! Once their competition is completed, each will be taking a different journey of their choice throughout New Zealand. It has been a process and learning experience working with about 30 of them…kinda like herding wasps! I’ve loved getting to know each of them and being able to send them on this incredible trip has been worth every minute that I’ve spent on it.
What’s the most memorable trip you ever took?
Oh, that’s a tough question. Each trip has memories. Japan was fantastic. We were invited to attend a wedding. It was held in a small village called Minoh Falls. The wedding was very traditional and stunning. Day trip to Kyoto just made me wanting more. It’s fascinating to know that Japan has survived thousands and thousands of earthquakes. Yet, those buildings are still standing proud after many hundreds of years. We have lots to learn from other cultures and societies. Australia was also fabulous from start to finish. I wasn’t ready to come home. The culture is so similar to Canada, they truly made us feel right at home. To go that far and experience another part of the globe opened my eyes to what I’ve been missing.
Where do you see your career one year from now?
I just want to keep up the pace and do my best work. I love what I do and hearing my clients come home with their stories and experiences is what keeps me going. My goals are to increase not only my clientele, but to also learn to qualify my clients.
What’s one thing you would change about the travel industry?
The biggest slide in the industry is with the airlines. They keep cutting back on what matters or impresses our clients. They are being nickel and dimed from start to finish. Pay for luggage, pay for food and beverages onboard, pay to choose seats early. Flights are an expensive part of the trip. I’d rather it was all included as one price, instead of telling my clients how much more they have to spend. Build it in. One and done. Food on flights – unless you’re Premium Economy or above – is much to be desired! The challenges with luggage arriving with the clients (I believe this is starting to improve) is a real concern for people. That’s probably the number one question I get asked: “Is my luggage going to arrive?”
What’s the secret to being successful in this business?
Being compassionate, and as much as possible, being available to answer all for their questions and concerns. Travelling is stressful. My job is to ease that stress any way I can.
What is your motto?
“We only get to go around this big blue marble once, make the best of each day.”
What is your number one piece of advice to other travel advisors?
Never stop learning. Once the mind is expanded, it can never go back to its original form. Knowledge is power.
Where are you travelling next?
Back-to-back cruises. An Air Canada Vacations FAM with Royal Caribbean International (Barcelona to Barcelona) and then two days later, I’m taking 16 clients from Barcelona to Venice with Celebrity.
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