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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
Name: Shari Tucker
Business: Love The Way You Travel
Where do you live? Halifax, N.S.
How long have you been a travel advisor? 11 years
What is your specialty?
Our specialty is finding and creating authentic adventures for responsible travellers around the world. We work with suppliers who have a focus on sustainability and we teach clients how to take small steps throughout their trip to travel more responsibly.
What is your current state of mind?
COVID was a really dark time for the industry. I can remember in 2020 and 2021 when they were saying full recovery wouldn’t be until 2023 or 2024. I thought I would never make it in business that long. I took out a loan to get me through 2020 and 2021. Last year, I sustained my business and this year, I’ve now paid off the loan. I’m ecstatic to run a debt-free business. Without the weight of COVID and debt, I’m looking forward to progress, growth and expansion in the sustainable travel space.
What inspired you to become a travel advisor?
Two major life events at very different times led me to becoming a travel advisor. In 1998, I survived a plane crash in Fredericton, New Brunswick. For the next 10-plus years, I was terrified to get back on a plane. At that time in my life, there were obviously no thoughts of becoming a travel advisor!
When I did decide it was time for me to fly again, it was because I had a desire to see the world and not be held back by what I had been through. After visiting a few countries in my first few years of flying, I decided to host a photography tour in Peru (I was a professional photographer at the time). The photo tour was in partnership with a travel agency here in Halifax. While I sat at Machu Picchu, overwhelmed by the beauty and the peacefulness, I knew that I needed a life and career change.
From that point forward, my life changed. I took a new path that led me to an opportunity to become an adventure travel consultant with the company who helped me launch my first photo tour. I wanted nothing more than to explore this big, beautiful world, encourage others to do the same and have control over the fear of flying I had lived with for so long.
What travel trends are you seeing these days?
We’re seeing a mix of people booking very far in advance and lots of people trying to book last minute, which we are not able to accommodate as we are at capacity for what we can professionally manage.
We are finding quite a few of our clients are travelling for six weeks to three months. Many more clients are travelling for three to four weeks at a time. We rarely book clients for less than a two-week trip. In general, we are finding clients are staying for longer in destination. However, we also work primarily with a 50-plus demographic and those who like to immerse themselves in destinations.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you do business?
COVID definitely changed the way we do business. First of all, we rebranded during the pandemic to focus on responsible and sustainable travel. Secondly, we’ve set boundaries around how and when we communicate with clients including implementing an emergency phone line rather than using our regular cell number. This allows us to know when something is a true emergency rather than always feeling the need to answer phone calls on evenings and weekends.
Although we’ve always charged planning fees, we solidified a system that we now stick to for all clients. We’ve also put a process in place for all new clients who contact us to provide the same information to everyone about who we are and how we can (or cannot) help with their travel planning.
We’ve stopped taking cruise, all-inclusive, Disney and flights-only bookings. Those are not our areas of expertise. We have a great partnership with a colleague who takes the all-inclusive and cruise referrals we get. It helps build their business and keeps clients effortlessly coming into their pipeline, while we retain a small percentage of the sale. It’s a win-win.
Lastly, but probably most importantly for us, we’ve strengthened our focus on working with responsible suppliers, educating clients on the importance of responsible travel and finding ways to incorporate it into every itinerary.
Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary are you most proud of?
I’m currently working on a three-month long itinerary for a retired, solo traveller’s dream trip to Australia, New Zealand and Chile. The focus of her trip is fantastic landscapes, conservation and Indigenous Culture. Through a combination of small group tours with companies who have an excellent connection to Indigenous Cultures in Australia and New Zealand, and a DMC in Chile who is focused on protecting the environment, we are creating a responsible itinerary full of authentic travel experiences.
We’ve done a lot of research to eliminate as many flights as possible, keeping those necessary to being direct connections. She’ll do the bulk of her transportation in small groups, using passenger vans, as well as a few ferries and trains along the way. Most of her accommodations are locally owned and she’ll be staying at some interesting properties in remote Chile where nature and conservation are top priority.
What’s the most memorable trip you ever took?
My first trip to Machu Picchu with G Adventures was a life-changer as it set me on the path to becoming a travel advisor. My last trip prior to COVID in November 2019 was to Nepal with Intrepid Travel. It was life changing in teaching me about the negative and positive impacts of tourism when it comes to human trafficking, orphanages and the oppression of women in other countries.
My first trip once the world started to open up was a FAM trip through Pro Colombia to go Mountain Biking in Colombia. I had never gone Mountain Biking before so it was an incredible personal achievement. It was very powerful to get back to exploring the world, to be challenged to do new things and to (literally) climb mountains!
Where do you see your business one year from now?
One year from now, I hope to have a small but mighty team of strong women travel advisors who are passionate about the importance of sustainability in travel. With that, I hope to find more balance in my own life after the rollercoaster of 2020 to 2022. I hope to be recovered mentally and physically from the stress of the pandemic so that I can focus on growth and positive impact in future years.
What’s the secret to being successful in this business?
Relationships and transparency. I think it is incredibly important to build strong relationships with your suppliers and with your clients. Everyone makes mistakes. When you make a mistake or something goes wrong for a client, it is easier to fix if you have a built a relationship with a supplier and are reaching out to someone you know. On the client side, I think it is important to own your mistakes, apologize and fix what you can. In my experience I have found that clients appreciate and value the honesty far more than being angry about the mistake.
What is your number one piece of advice to other travel advisors?
Find your niche. There are far too many types of travel and too many destinations out there to know everything about every one of them. Don’t be afraid to say no to clients and pass them on to someone who does that type of travel or destination better than you. It’ll free up time for you to concentrate on the travel you are passionate about and give clients a better experience. It’s ok if you don’t handle every single one of your client’s trips. Just make sure you handle the ones they bring to you, beautifully!
Where are you travelling next?
I’m off to network, reconnect and build partnerships with suppliers at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas in August. After that, I’m taking a small private group on a sustainable safari and Gorilla Trekking experience in Rwanda in September.
Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today! Click here to follow PAX on Facebook.