Despite studying travel and tourism in college, Rod Hanna's post-secondary career didn't start in the travel industry.
In fact, he held a number of interesting roles, working as everything from a UPS driver, to a lab technician, to an English/Spanish translator.
Nevertheless, Hanna, who resides in Brampton, Ont. and now works as the national trade sales manager for the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, Canada, has been travelling for as long as he can remember. When he's not networking with agents and getting them excited about all of the opportunities that await in Saint Lucia, he's likely on the move.
"I'm much easier to get a hold of via Messenger for quick questions and assistance; always being on the go makes that a great option," Rod tells us. "At the end of the day, if you're thinking Saint Lucia and letting her inspire you, then I'm on the right path."
This week, we're checking in with Rod, to learn more about the time duty-free shopping got the best of him, the two major celebrities he met randomly at the Miami airport on the same day, and why the thought of packing for a trip still excites him.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Rod Hanna (RH): Cell phone (for social media and the mandatory selfies), cologne (Gentlemen Only by Givenchy) and my favorite football (soccer) jersey from my team back home Universidad Catolica de Chile, I have pictures with those jerseys pretty much everywhere I've been.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
RH: Chile: I was born and spent most of my childhood there. Although I don't go back there as often as I'd like; great memories, friends and family. Mexico: The destination I've been to the most. Perhaps it all started with a once-in-a-lifetime road trip back in my late teens, when we drove from Portage La Prairie, Manitoba to Mexico City.
And of course, Saint Lucia; her people, her landscapes, her biodiversity, her uniqueness, her colours and flavours. What's not to like?
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
RH: As strange as it may seem, Toronto Pearson. I love knowing where things are and the familiarity of YYZ. Plus it's 20 minutes from home.
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
RH: The relationships one builds. I love how despite the fact that we all have different interests, jobs and employers, we can all rally around one another when needed. I love how we can all gather at trade shows and share experiences, "war-stories" and laughs. I think it's safe to say I'm a people person and I like talking, conversing, sharing experiences and socializing, and what better industry to do that in, but in travel!
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
RH: My first vacation was travelling aboard a CP Air plane back to Toronto in 1981 from Santiago, Chile on a "milk-run" trip with connections and stops in Lima, Peru and Bogota, Colombia (just to name a few). It was the first time I remember getting on a plane and I've loved flying and travelling ever since; I still get excited when I have to pack for a trip and go through the airport.
Family road-trips were also a big part of growing up; travelling across the States and up and down Chile. Having to share the back seat with my sister (daring not to cross that invisible line to "her" side) and going through book series like "The Hardy Boys" and "Nancy Drew" to help the hours go by (now I'm aging myself) are memories I always enjoy.
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
RH: That one time in Panama City at the gigantic Albrook Mall when I got shopping fever. I can't fully recall what occurred, but when I came to, I was standing in my hotel room looking at a pile of shopping bags on my bed filled with toys, watches and gifts for my kids and wife. That's what duty-free shopping will do to you.
PAX: Most memorable food/meal you ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
RH: The Ladera Cocoa Chocolate Mousse. I loved the way it was plated and served, not to mention the richness and exquisite sweet taste. This scrumptious dessert is so unique, that even the dish it comes in is local. Oh, and did I mention the view?
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
RH: Flight complainers (weather/mechanical delays) and people who can't follow simple instructions (don't get up until plane has come to a complete stop and the seat belt sign has been turned off)!
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
RH: I consider myself somewhat of a good photographer (for social media), I speak German and I'm also a FIFA accredited sports radio journalist/commentator.
PAX: Checked bag or carry-on?
RH: Checked bag . You won't see me wear the same outfit twice, just ask my colleagues, past and present!
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
RH: On a family trip to Chile back in 2007, we had a connection in Miami and while we were waiting to board, we were ushered into a pre-boarding room where we saw flight attendants going crazy running around taking pictures with these individuals (pre-selfie phase). I recognized one of them as Daddy Yankee, so I went over, said hi, took a picture with him, and he was kind enough to take a quick call from my niece and chat with her for a bit (needless to say I was her favorite uncle after that).
Then, we noticed the the other fellow and were told he was a Puerto Rican singer-songwriter called Luis Fonsi, so my wife got a picture with him. Fast-forward a decade later and these two made a hit song together called "Despacito."
PAX: What are 1-2 things travel agents should be aware of right now in regards to Saint Lucia?
RH: Saint Lucia just won the award for the ‘Caribbean’s Leading Honeymoon Destination’ at the 26th annual World Travel Awards (WTA) in Jamaica at the Sandals Montego Bay on Jan. 28. Saint Lucia has won this award 10 times. In 2018, Saint Lucia was also bestowed the title of ‘World's Leading Honeymoon Destination’.
Last, but certainly not least, are you a SLEx travel agent yet?
Some of the benefits include discounted FAM trips, monthly cash prizes for the top reporting travel agent and agency, incentives from participating hotels, including complimentary site inspections, and a chance to win an all-expense, all-inclusive trip for two.
Agents can visit https://edu.recommend.com/courses/3/saint-lucia-expert-slex for more information.
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