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: Catherine Davis
Business: Zebrano Travel
Where do you live? Picton, ON
How long have you been a travel advisor? Seven years. I left the medical marketing and education industry after 21 years to sell travel.
What is your specialty?
I sell luxury travel. I am a Virtuoso advisor who curates epic trips! I also have subspecialties in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Ireland and adventure travel.
What is your current state of mind?
I love what I do and I am so thankful to be selling travel again after COVID. I believe now, more than ever, that agents should be paid for their knowledge, connections, and time. It is something that Zebrano Travel has always done and I am so happy to see other agents doing the same. I travel extensively, investigating several destinations each year, ensuring that I am always building my knowledge, relationships and finding the ‘perfect’ destination for my clients. I also attend several travel conferences each year, at my own expense, so I can talk knowledgeably to my clients about their travel plans and ensure they have an incredible experience.
What inspired you to become a travel advisor?
My sister, Wendy Davis (owner of Zebrano Travel) has been doing this for years. She was always encouraging me to switch careers and when I did, she was there to help me every step of the way. If it wasn’t for her, I would not be as successful as I am now. I learned from the best. I owe everything to her and I am so grateful to be a part of this business!
What’s the first trip you ever took?
My parents were always taking us places – even camping when we were little. I guess Florida was the first big trip when I was a kid – Walt Disney World with my sister. My Dad dropped us off at the gates and off we went. The first epic trip I did was Machu Picchu and that was incredible! So much more than Disney.
What travel trends are you seeing these days?
I see people choosing off-the-beaten-path [itineraries] more than ever (Fogo Island, Bhutan and Borneo). Regenerative tourism is a huge trend – I think clients are seeking to minimize the negative impacts of tourism while, at the same time, ensuring that the local cultural heritage and traditions are protected. Essentially, give more than you take. As Virtuoso says, “experiences that are good for people and the planet.”
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you do business?
Now, I always sell insurance. I don’t think I will ever sell a trip without it, and often it is with CFAR (Cancel For Any Reason). The key is for the client to limit their liability if something does go wrong (weather, strikes, pandemics, or just life getting in the way). You never know when an unforeseen event can force you to cancel your trip. It gives you peace of mind.
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary are you most proud of?
I am proud of all of my trips and I always try to make sure it is special for my clients. There was one client I had who was in the music industry (part of an iconic Canadian band) and he went to a resort that is owned by a famous music producer. I wanted to surprise my client with a meeting with the owner and had the whole hotel team working with me to make it happen. It was a special day for my client, I was so impressed with the hotel and sales team who made it happen! This is what we do in our industry and it is so much fun!
What’s the most memorable trip you ever took?
This is so hard to narrow down as I have been to some incredible places. If I was to choose one, it would have to be Africa. As the saying goes, ‘You may leave Africa, but Africa never leaves you.’ There is so much to see in Africa starting with the incredible wildlife – the Big Five (African elephant, cape buffalo, lion, black rhino and leopard) or the Ugly Five (warthog, hyena, marabou stork, vulture and the wildebeest). There is also the Shy Five, and so on.
There’s the stunning landscapes – tropical beaches, jungles, mountains and open savannahs. The sunsets are some of the most beautiful in the world, particularly with the silhouette of an acacia tree or an elephant in the background.
Most importantly, every African safari supports worthy causes of conservation and development in local communities. This ties right back into regenerative travel – “experiences that are good for the people and planet.”
Where do you see your business one year from now?
I have steady clientele that I work with and we plan their trips year after year. I would like to grow that business each year, but not to the point where I am overstressed and can’t manage things on my own. I am at a place in my life where I am really happy and I love working with the clients I have. For me, it is not about quantity of trips but quality. The 80/20 rule. My trips tend to be more complex, with customized itineraries and a high value. We work through referrals only.
What’s one thing you would change about the travel industry?
I love this industry, but I must say the one thing I hate is having to chase after commissions. It drives me nuts.
What’s the secret to being successful in this business?
Be passionate about what you do, work hard, network and most importantly, be kind
What is your motto?
“Sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails ...Explore, Dream, Discover...” – Mark Twain.
What is your number one piece of advice to other travel advisors?
Always be learning, via travel, online, conferences and so on. It is our job to be on top of the latest trends, making sure our customers understand our value proposition. Developing a niche is highly recommended. It is impossible to have knowledge of every destination. The best agents develop a specialty, which can be anything from Africa to cruises to honeymoons to destination weddings.
Where are you travelling next?
I just got back from Thailand, Ireland and The Palm Beaches. My next trip will be Las Vegas for Virtuoso Travel Week.