The eldest of seven children, industry veteran Michele Rauzon always dreamed of travelling while growing up, a dream she shared with the rest of her family.
“As you can imagine, finances were very tight, so one could only dream of travel,” Rauzon recalls. “My dad, who worked in a factory to support his family, always dreamt of traveling. He was an avid reader as and we grew up with his stories of destinations and places which he had never visited, but it was as if he had been there the previous week. I can truly say he instilled the love of travel in all of us.”
While she first worked as VP of Consumer Products at sewing machine manufacturer Singer, Rauzon – along with her two sisters, her mom and later, her son – would later join the travel industry as a result of those early dreams, finally helping her parents realize their travel goals.
Living on Ile Ste. Therese along the south shore of Montreal, Rauzon currently works as Director of Sales – North America for 5Continents, bringing the unique travel company’s offerings to travel agents across the continent.
“Customer service is a must for me, making sure I am available for the agents as needed. I handle all sales related activities such as preparing our road shows, sales visits with our inbound operators and preparing FAMs.”
This week, PAX checks in with Rauzon on a memorable family beach vacation, that time she won $500 in a cruise ship casino (and what she spent it on) and a unforgettable drive in Barbados with two travel agents…
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Michele Rauzon (MR): My laptop; a bathing suit (I love to swim and its always in my suitcase, whether or not I use it); and a small toaster – I’ve been teased a lot about his one, but it is what it is! When staying over three nights in the same hotel, I love to just eat breakfast in my room.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
MR: The Canadian Rockies – I’ve spent so much time in Banff and Lake Louise. It is so grandiose and makes you remember how very small we are in the grand scheme of things. Europe – really anywhere in Europe, although France is my favorite country. I’ve always felt right at home in Europe. Barbados – specifically St. Peters Bay Resort: the manager, the staff and the beauty of Barbados make this overall a great resort and wonderful island.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
MR: Pierre Elliot Trudeau. I love to travel and have traveled extensively for business. When I get to Dorval airport, it means I’m coming home. As much as I love to travel, there truly is no place like home!
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
MR: I have always had a passion for the travel industry. We are selling dreams and making people happy. What’s not to love? Over many years in travel, I have built so many wonderful relationships in both Canada and the U.S., with so many great travel agents, suppliers, partners and work colleagues who have become friends. These relationships mean the world to me and I simply cannot fathom working anywhere else. If I was to name everyone, you’d have ten pages.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
MR: The trip that stands out the most in my memory is when my parents took all of us to Old Orchard Beach for a few days in the summer. I was in my teens and we had never been anywhere; my dad wanted so much to take us on a trip! None of us had ever seen the ocean but my parents had no budget for this at all. But my dad had a week’s vacation, so he borrowed an old station wagon from his brother and packed nine of us in there to drive to Old Orchard Beach. He had rented a single room (for nine of us!) at a very old and run-down motel not far from the beach, which literally cost peanuts! My brother and I slept in the car and the younger ones slept in sleeping bags on the floor. However, I will never forget this trip – when my siblings and when I first saw the ocean, we were absolutely jumping for joy; we actually ran in the water all dressed and didn’t care.
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
MR: I had taken my niece and youngest son on a Carnival cruise for a week’s holiday. I had never played in the casino, but walking though one evening, I put $20 in a machine. I almost died when I heard the bells and whistles and discovered that I had won $500 - a fortune for me! When we returned to Miami, I went into an art store and bought an original Thomas Kinkade painting with the money. I still have it and cherish it to this day. I definitely could have used the money for more practical things. It was a splurge, but I never regretted it.
PAX: Most memorable food/meal you ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
MR: It was dinner at a Japanese restaurant at Beaches Turks and Caicos. We had sponsored a Uniglobe Owners Retreat, and on one of the free nights, about eight of us decided to go to this restaurant. The meal was delicious, but it was much more about the fun we had. It was just one of those evenings where everyone got along, the dynamics were awesome and we had so much fun over nothing. In all my years, I don’t remember laughing so hard as I did that evening.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
MR: Very early morning flights – literally sleepless nights following by working on arrival most of the time. I hate those with a passion!
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
MR: I’m pretty much an open book – nothing really hidden. I love to cook but that’s about it, other than that nothing hidden.
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
MR: Aisle seat and hopefully shades down
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
MR: One year, we sponsored the Sears Travel Millionaires trip. It was my first time with these agents and I knew it had to go well as we organized the trip from A to Z in Barbados.
With Barbados Tourism, we had rented a coach for an island tour with all the agents. A few people were added to the trip at the last minute, so we all boarded the coach to realize we were three seats short. Fortunately, I had rented a Mini Moke for the week – these are very small cars with no doors or windows and are all open. To make sure everyone was able to do the tour, I offered to drive my Moke, and asked if two people wanted to join me. Immediately, one of the agents and her husband jumped on.
I was kind of nervous as I did not really know them and hoped it would all go well. Everything was fine until about two hours into the trip when it started to rain. I put up the makeshift top but much to my dismay, it turned out to be a torrential downpour! It rained so hard that we were all soaked to the skin in no time – and we still had to keep going!
Everyone in the bus was laughing at us – and all we could do was laugh, too! When we finally got to Sam Lord’s castle for our lunch, we looked like drowned rats – the people on the bus all laughing so hard – and we just kept on laughing, too. We talked about that for a long time, and still do to this day when I meet any of them. All in all, it turned out to be an experience and a lot of fun and they were great sports!
PAX: What should travel agents be aware of right now in regards to 5Continents?
MR: 5Continents is a great concept where agents can finally make money and a profit. We have a wonderful team, impeccable service and great products. We specialize in groups of any kind to our core destinations, but also offer FIT and made-to-measure experiences, pre- and post- cruise tours with private guides, as well as guaranteed group departures. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
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