PAX checks in with AIC Hotel Group's Sarah Smith


PAX checks in with AIC Hotel Group's Sarah Smith
"We believe in the value of travel agents," says Sarah Smith, regional director of business development with AIC Hotel Group for Central Canada. Seen here in Capri, Italy. Photo courtesy of Sarah Smith.

Sarah Smith remembers the time she saw an online post describing her “dream job.”

It was fall 2010, and the job was with AIC Hotel Group.

Smith, who, at the time, had never worked in the travel industry, applied for the role, got an interview, and hoped for the best. 

Unfortunately, she didn’t get the position.  

Although “disheartened,” Smith pushed forward and continued searching for the perfect gig. 

Then, one day, seven months later, AIC’s vice-president of global field sales, Ash Tembe, came calling.

“He asked if I was still interested in the role as a position had opened up. The rest is history!” says Smith, who, today, is the regional director of business development with AIC Hotel Group for Central Canada (ON, SK, MB).

Smith, pictured here in NYC, scored her dream gig at AIC Hotel Group in 2011. Photo courtesy of Sarah Smith.

These days, Smith’s main goal is to grow the AIC Hotel Group (Nobu Hotel Miami Beach, Los Cabos and Chicago, Eden Roc Miami Beach, Unico 20º87º Hotel Riviera Maya & All Inclusive Hard Rock Hotels in Mexico and the Dominican Republic) – notably, its brand recognition and market share in Canada.

That involves everything from event planning to training tour operators and travel professionals to co-op marketing to mentoring and training new BDMs to meeting with brides and grooms and conducting wedding consultations to attending consumer and industry trade shows and events to managing social media accounts to hosting and organizing FAM trips to conducting sales calls.

All that while staying current on the latest industry news.

Whew. 

When Smith’s not spending time with friends and family, she’s caring for her two dogs, Lucy and ChiChi, and exploring her other passions, such as interior design, real-estate investing, photography and fashion.

Here, PAX checks in with the tireless traveller to chat about riding scooters along the Amalfi Coast, Saint Laurent handbags and the one restaurant that made her reconsider being a strict vegetarian.  

PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?

Sarah Smith (SS): iPhone, credit card & Nexus/passport.  Worst case scenario, everything else can be purchased in destination!

PAX: Have you always worked in travel? 

SS: I graduated with a graphic design diploma from George Brown College and was working six-to-seven part-time jobs at the same time prior to being hired by AIC! I did everything from freelance graphic design, bartending, promotional marketing for a number of brands ranging from Nespresso to tequila, and managed a L’Oreal Professional boutique. Guess you could say I've always been a workaholic!

Sarah Smith (pictured here in Nassau, Bahamas) worked 6-7 part-time jobs before landing her dream job at AIC.

PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?

SS: If you look at my social media (Instagram: @aic.sarah), it would appear I am always on vacation. [However], I’m actually guilty of rarely taking time off!

Mexico holds a special place in my heart. I love Sayulita in Riviera Nayarit (very relaxed vibe, beautiful sunsets, great shopping / local artisan crafts and lots of friendly dogs on the beach) and Mexico City (amazing street food and culture).

I spent 10 days in Italy a few years ago and the Amalfi Coast is somewhere I would return to again and again! Incredible pasta, pizza and seafood and beautiful views. Jasmine and lemon trees were in bloom when I visited in June so the air was so fragrant and the weather was perfect. I rode from Sorrento to Maiori on the back of a scooter and it was terrifying but also the best way to experience the coast and be able to stop along the way and take tons of photos of the beaches below.

Next up is India for two weeks this month, [December], and Colombia next June.

Sarah Smith enjoys Wynwood Walls in Miami, Florida. Photo courtesy of Sarah Smith.

PAX: What’s your favourite airport?

SS: Cancun International Airport (CUN) because it feels like my second home.

PAX: What do you love most about your job? 

SS: I love that every day is different. I thrive on change and variety so the role is a perfect fit for me. I love working with incredibly passionate individuals – both my colleagues and travel partners. I love the relationships and close friendships I’ve built over the past few years. Our AIC team is like a family, which is an incredible dynamic. We motivate one another and celebrate each other’s successes. We exemplify the work hard/play hard mentality.

"Our AIC team is like a family, which is an incredible dynamic," says Sarah Smith, here, pictured in Cabo San Lucas. Photo courtesy of Sarah Smith.

PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?

SS: The first time I boarded a plane was to Mexico City for three weeks when I was 21 years old! I experienced Mexico like a local: Acapulco, Puebla, Teotihuacan, Xochimilco and fell in love with the country, food, people and culture. Who knew years later I would be working for a Mexican family-owned company visiting Mexico multiple times per year! My favourite ‘souvenir’ from my first trip? My miniature dachshund ChiChi!

PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip? 

SS: A Saint Laurent handbag and shoes purchased in Florence, Italy for my birthday a few years ago.

PAX: What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten while travelling? 

SS: Dinner at Nobu Miami Beach in 2016. I started eating seafood again after almost 20 years of being a strict vegetarian! Favourite dish: miso black cod. I am a huge foodie and always try to seek out the best local spots when travelling.

Smith, seen here in NYC, is a huge foodie and always seeks out the best local spots when travelling. Photo courtesy of Sarah Smith

PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?

SS: People who recline their seat in front of me when I’m trying to work on my laptop followed by people who take their shoes off on the plane (gross!)

PAX: Checked bag or carry-on?

SS: Carry-on whenever I can! For business trips I usually review the itinerary and plan my outfits in advance so I don’t end up packing too many unnecessary items. I am usually always the last person at the airport so not checking a bag and using my Nexus card allow me to make it to my gate quickly.

What should travel agents be aware of right now in regards to AIC?

SS: AIC has invested in a sales team across North America because we believe in the value of travel agents. We are here to support you however we can!

Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos and NOBU Los Cabos will be opening spring 2019 - take advantage of pre-opening pricing especially for destination wedding groups. In addition to Nobu Hotel Chicago, which is set to open summer 2019.

Unlimited spa, golf, tours and beauty salon treatments included with a 25 per cent service fee for travel after Jan. 6, 2019 at all Hard Rock all-inclusive hotels in Mexico and the Dominican Republic with the new Limitless All-Inclusive, and at UNICO 20º87º Hotel Riviera Maya with the Unlimited Inclusions.

Brand new podcast, This Job Sucks, that can now be found on Sound Cloud, iTunes, Stitcher and Podbean. This new format allows us to provide our agents with on-the-go updates on all things AIC Hotel Group.

We offer one of the best bonus commission (Amplified Rewards) and free nights earning programs (RnR) in the industry as part of our Amped Agent program. To quality, make sure your bookings are registered prior to the client’s departure at www.allinagents.com.

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