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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: Shalene Dudley
Business: Latitude Concierge Travels Ltd.
Where do you live? Oakville, ON
How long have you been a travel advisor? 10 years
What is your specialty? Group travel
What is your current state of mind?
Primed for new opportunities that present themselves and expand the brand. Our portfolio of suppliers, destinations, partnerships and team is expanding and we are ready for all of it!
What inspired you to become a travel advisor?
I wanted to go to Ryerson as I was interested in their hospitality program. Instead, I graduated with a BA in Interior Design and focused on hospitality. My first job was as an Imagineer for the Walt Disney Company. Many years later, after a life-altering event, travel was the escape I needed to reset my life and mindset. When it was time to get back to work, I decided I needed a major career change and I turned to what I always loved: the travel industry. Coordinating group trips with my friends had always been enjoyable. I found it easy to learn how to make it a lucrative business because I already had the product knowledge.
What’s the first trip you ever took?
We went to England to visit family when I was 12.
What travel trends are you seeing these days?
Canadians are starting to travel like Americans (they're taking three, four-day trips). This is likely due to the perception that costs will be less for shorter durations. Wedding groups are interested in European destinations. Clients are upgrading their rooms, paying for seat selection, and buying insurance.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you do business?
We revised our marketing/promotional materials and contracts to become more inclusive, updated our contracts and booking forms to include more parameters in case of cancellations, and time was available for me to re-evaluate and update my business plan. This led to the realization that owning an independent agency was feasible. I also expanded across the border to include U.S. clients and expand into other niches and destinations outside of the Caribbean.
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary are you most proud of?
A high-profile couple decided UNICO 20° 87° was the perfect place for their destination wedding in 2018. I managed a wedding group coming from eight countries and four continents within three separate group contracts to support the group’s needs. I assisted them with organizing an onsite poker tournament (with custom casino chips – we gave them as a gift) and coordinated a custom tailor to work with the groom directly to create a Game of Thrones-inspired suit. The most complicated part was managing a pricing matrix the bride created to offset the rate for guests at different rates.
What’s the most memorable trip you ever took?
My first FAM trip was on the Disney Wonder in 2003 when I worked as an Imagineer. The service and immersive experience was unlike anything I had ever experienced. That was when I absolutely knew I needed my career to include travel.
Where do you see your business one year from now?
One year from now, I would love to be able to sleep on the weekends! I am also hoping to expand our MICE portfolio.
What’s one thing you would change about the travel industry?
Like many industries, there is a lack of young leadership. We need to focus on mentorship and succession planning. We also need to change compensation in regards to the amount received with the big tour operators and how and when we are paid.
What’s the secret to being successful in this business?
Pivoting, being flexible, networking and collaborating.
What is your motto?
Be prepared. That's the Girl Guides’ motto, but it always applies.
What is your number one piece of advice to other travel advisors?
If you consider yourself an independent contractor in any industry, you should be incorporated. Don't limit yourself. Keep learning.
Where are you travelling next?
I’m currently in Texas at Miraval Austin on a wellness FAM! Next stop, Secrets Moxché for the Romance Travel Forum in June, the new Sandals Dunn’s River in September, Amsterdam in October for the 2023 Avalon Waterways European River Cruise Summit, and possibly ILTM in December.
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