When Andi Bacho was in high school, her dream was to become a flight attendant so that she could travel and see the world.
She had the chops. As a teenager, she already spoke three languages and had great customer service skills.
“I was sure this was the path for me,” says Bacho, who grew up in Chile, along South America's western edge. “I was ready to fly as soon as I graduated!”
Her parents supported the idea. However, they still thought it would be a good idea for their daughter to go to college, first, to get a degree. And she did, specializing in travel and tourism.
“After completing my co-op at a travel agency in 1999, I knew this was the industry for me,” Bacho tells PAX. “And I never looked back!”
Aside from a customer experience role she once held at Workopolis, a tech company, Bacho has spent her career exploring many roles in travel, from being a travel and airport agent to working in ticketing and reservations at a call center.
“I was always looking to stay in the industry,” she says. “It’s a passion you can’t ignore!
Today, Bacho lives in Brooklin (a community in Whitby, ON) with her husband, two of her four kids, her pup Dexter and Bailey (a “chunky and vocal” cat).
And professionally, she's a business development manager for Playa Hotels and Resorts, overseeing Ontario – a role she began last January.
Her day-to-day duties include training, educating and promoting and representing Playa’s “beautiful properties,” she says, referring to the company’s portfolio of upscale all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.
What does Bacho love about her role?
“What don’t I love?” she tells PAX. “I love that what I do each day doesn’t actually feel like work. That may sound cheesy, but it really doesn’t!”
“I am a customer service person at heart and I believe that people buy from people they trust. Once agents become familiar with the Playa brand, it really sells itself.”
She also loves having the opportunity to be there for travel advisors, take calls, answer emails, educate and spread the word about everything Playa has to offer.
“Getting out there, meeting everyone face to face, is what I love the most, day in and out!” Bacho says.
Here, PAX Checks In with Bacho to discuss “the best” tequila in Mexico, her reputation as a human jukebox and the number one thing travel advisors should do when they book a Playa property.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Andi Bacho (AB): I don’t think that I’ll ever be a carry-on traveller, no matter how long I’m going for. I’ll always pack my sunscreen, my laptop and lately, my own cutlery and drink tumbler (can those be grouped as one?)
PAX: What’s your favourite airport?
AB: I’d have to say Santiago airport (SCL). My daughter, parents and sister (with her family) live in Chile, and arriving into Santiago is where the most beautiful reunions with my family happen! It has always been that way. I have memories, maybe as a 10 year old, arriving into SCL and having my grandma somehow make her way through security in her Red Cross uniform to greet us before even getting our luggage. SCL is also where I worked for six years before moving back to Canada in 2004. It holds so many special memories of my years working for Air France, United Airlines and Delta Airlines.
PAX: What was the first trip you ever took?
AB: Aside from all my visits to Chile as a child, which is what inspired me to want to work in travel, I would o say my most memorable first trip was when I worked for EF Educational Tours. I had the opportunity to travel on a tour with a group of students and their teachers to Italy and Greece. Experiencing the life, food and local culture for the first time in my life was one thing, but being able to also experience it through the eyes of high school students was extra special and truly life changing for them!
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
AB: Last year I was on a FAM to Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos. We did a tequila tasting in Puerto Vallarta and I bought my husband a bottle of what I thought was the best tequila I’ve ever had. I think it was in the $200 range and I was so happy until we then did another tequila tasting in Cabo and I came across the best tequila ever! And so, I caved, and for another $200, my husband was well taken care of for Christmas!
PAX: What's the most memorable meal you've ever had while travelling?
AB: Dinner at Alinea, a three Michelin-star restaurant in Chicago takes the cake. It was a birthday trip for my husband and my besties. We had an exact date we wanted a reservation for, and in order to reserve a table, we had to go online, on a specific day, at an exact time, to get reservations. It was like getting tickets to a concert! It was absolutely worth it though. It was a beautiful 16-course meal and an incredible experience!
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
AB: People that get up to get off the plane out of order. Like, we’re all getting off. Can we please get off in an orderly fashion, row by row?
PAX: What is your funniest travel anecdote?
AB: Trying to answer this one took me down a rabbit hole of so many funny travel stories! I reached out to my travel besties to chat about it try to find one to share. I’ve concluded that so many fun and funny anecdotes are “you had to be there” stories. However, remembering them with my friends and family over these past few days have made me laugh so much my cheeks hurt! If I could give any advice, it would be to make sure you take every opportunity to create those funny memories for yourself and for your people as well. The stories will keep you connected and laughing many years later!
PAX: Would you travel for a month in luxury or for a year on a budget?
AB: I’ve earned my dues, so there is no doubt in my mind, I’d travel for a month in luxury. I want to be pampered at a spa, sleep in fancy beds, eat the fancy food, be driven around instead of being the driver, so that I can explore and take in all the sights. And then, at the end of the day, I want to lay on comfy (fancy) loungers with a fancy drink sitting by a fancy fire pit!
PAX: What do you consider your greatest achievement in recent years?
AB: Personally, getting through COVID with my family and the new friendships that developed as a result. Professionally, getting through COVID as a travel agent, and still having clients to help experience travel all over again, was amazing. Starting my career as a BDM with Playa was icing on the cake!
PAX: What is your motto?
AB: Life is too short to drink bad wine.
PAX: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
AB: I think perfect happiness is an idea that is different for everyone. For me, it comes from within: truly enjoying what you do in life and surrounding yourself with people who support and champion you without ever having to be or act like someone you’re not. If there’s a band playing my song, and I want (and can) grab the mic to sing with the band, I’ll do it because it makes me happy! If something happens that makes me happy and I want to celebrate and dance in that moment, I’ll do it! I’m the happiest when I get to be authentically me and still get sh*t done.
PAX: What is your biggest fear?
AB: Drowning! Which is crazy because I love water and actually swam competitively in high school. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed this heightened respect for water and am extra cautious.
PAX: Who is your favourite singer or band?
AB: Impossible. Music is my life! I have a wide array of musical tastes, and it has changed over the years, but if I had to choose, I’d say Bon Jovi.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
AB: I’m such an open book that there’s not much about me people won’t know. I get called a human jukebox when they realize how many songs I can recognize…and actually know the lyrics to!
PAX: How has the pandemic changed your outlook on life?
AB: I learned very quickly that the bubble concept, working remotely and not seeing people in real life was definitely not for me. I never really realized how much I relied on seeing a smile until I didn’t see them anymore. I need that face-to-face interaction and I have certainly learned to appreciate it. As a new BDM, post COVID, I am so thankful to be out on the road, meeting agents. Having been in their shoes, understanding the toll the pandemic had on us. I see smiles and feel like we’re connecting now in a way that we all know is different than it was a couple of years ago.
PAX: What is the biggest challenge facing the travel industry right now?
AB: Training and knowledge transfer! Travel came back so fast and furious that there wasn’t enough time to get trained on things that were new. So much has changed. There’s new properties built from scratch, properties with new names, new destination information and requirements. Even how people travel has changed. It’s all different and the travel industry is in a ‘learn as you go’ phase, which is challenging because clients are relying on agents, more than ever, to trust that they know what they are talking about.
PAX: What is this year’s top travel trend?
AB: We’ve already seen revenge travel happen and I think people are now looking for a more immersive experience. They want to connect with local culture in a way that’s more meaningful – whatever that may look like to each traveller. I am also seeing a trend for larger family group travel and multigenerational reunions.
PAX: What should travel advisors know right now about Playa Hotels and Resorts?
AB: Playa has grown so much in the last few years. With 25 properties that cater to all wish lists and budgets, there really is a property for everyone. And stay tuned, because I’m sure there will be more to come.
Our agent platform, www.agentcashplus.com, is an incredible resource with amazing sales tools, media fact sheets and more. There are so many benefits that agents can enjoy when they book a Playa property and register their booking. That’s definitely priority número uno!
And, of course, I have to remind agents to contact me if they’re ever looking for training or need anything at all. I’ve been where you are, so use me. I’ll always be happy to help!