While Ana Vazquez may the newest member of the Air Canada Vacations sales team, it’s hardly her first role in the world of travel.
“I joined the travel business in 2011 at Walt Disney World!” Vazquez explained. “I gained valuable, on-the-job experience working in one of Disney's resorts: Coronado Springs Resorts. I also participated in college coursework at Disney’s University, where I built transferable skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, guest service and effective communication.”
From Disney, Vazquez moved into the agency side of the industry, working as a travel agent at Burnaby’s Odenza Vacations for five years, later becoming a business development manager with Flight Centre before heading to ACV.
“I love this industry and I would never change it for any other one,” she added.
Originally from Mexico City, Vazquez moved to Vancouver seven years ago and, in her current role as ACV’s BC Area Sales Manager, is “responsible for increasing sales in Vancouver and the Yukon, establishing strong and long relationships with agency contacts, participating in promotional activities including consumer and industry events, and generating sales and marketing strategies.”
This week, PAX checks in with Vazquez on first trips to Disneyland, cooking classes in Bangkok and why you should always read the label before putting sauce on a taco…
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
AV: Hot sauce: It’s no secret! I’m obsessed with spicy food (I’m Mexican), so I actually bring hot sauce with me on trips. My favorite sauce is Valentina.
Audio speakers: When you are getting ready to go out or just chilling on your beach hut patio looking out at sunset, having a bit of music playing in the background can really set the mood.
Portable charger: When travelling, you're likely going to be using your phone more. Plus, you might be in and out of coverage areas, which can drain your phone's battery faster than usual. And when you're travelling, access to power outlets is never guaranteed.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
AV: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico is an enchanting city, with stunning architecture, and vibrant color. It’s easy to spend hours meandering through busy street markets, lively plazas, world-class restaurants, street food stands (tacos, tamales, elotes, churros), art-filled shops, and baroque churches.
I love Havana, Cuba because it is a blend of the old and new, where vintage cars and crumbling Spanish colonial architecture mix with kitschy galleries and a booming nightlife. It’s the perfect vacation spot for those looking for a bit of history, art, natural landscapes and lots of opportunities to relax and forget about the world.
I went to India for my honeymoon. I was initially very hesitant to go as everyone I’ve talked to who travelled to India experienced challenges. However, I’ve had the Taj Mahal on my bucket list for a while and ignoring such a large country seemed wrong to me. I spent two weeks exploring the colourful and vibrant country and I was surprisingly amazed by everything, especially the food and history!
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
AV: London Heathrow Airport. I travelled to Europe for the first time in 2016 to meet my husband’s family, who lives in Bristol. London Heathrow Airport opened the door to a continent and a family that I always wanted to meet. This airport was also voted the World’s Best Airport Shopping in 2019! And who doesn’t love shopping?
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
AV: Travelling is my passion. I enjoy learning as much as possible about the world and other cultures. As an Area Sales Manager, I am able to combine my sales and communication skills with my passion for travel. One of the most exciting things about my job is to create strong relationships with travel agents so that I can help them to sell Air Canada Vacations’ products much better. I was a travel agent for almost five years, so I understand that Air Canada Vacations' success is not possible without the travel agents and their success is our success.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took (and why was it memorable)?
AV: The first vacation that I ever took was to Disneyland and Universal Studios in Anaheim. It was a very special holiday because I met some family who lived in Los Angeles that I hadn’t met before. My family knew all the tips and tricks of both parks, which helped to make our experience even more memorable. The highlight of my trip was to see the Happily Ever After Fireworks Show at Magic Kingdom. It was MAGICAL! After that visit, I decided that I was going to work for Walt Disney World one day.
PAX: Most memorable food/meal you ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
AV: My most memorable meal was at the Siamese cookery house in Bangkok. You start your cooking class with a visit to a local market with your teacher (a local guide). You choose all the necessary ingredients for your dinner: tom yum soup, pad thai and sticky rice with mango. After purchasing all the ingredients, you take a tuk tuk to the actual school, which is a typical Thai house with nice interiors.
Once you get to the school, you learn how to prepare the ingredients and create your meal, each tailoring your individual dishes to your own specific tastes. This was more than just a cooking class: it was a chance to venture off-the-beaten-path, take a fearless trip to a market, learn about ingredients, see and smell new things, connect with local people confidently and take home a new skill!
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
AV: When you travel, there is always an etiquette to follow. My biggest pet peeve is when someone is not respectful towards the people around them.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
AV: I know how to make the best salsa and guacamole in the world! I love cooking authentic Mexican food for my friends and family.
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
AV: Window shade up! I love taking pictures of the mountains, the ocean or clouds.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
AV: I travelled to Mexico City with my husband and friend from Panama. My friend wanted to experience the real Mexican life, so we went out dancing and drinking. In Mexico, it’s a tradition to eat tacos after partying. My friend had a lot of tequila that night. He thought that he had put honey mustard on his tacos when it was actually habanero sauce (Habanero peppers are one of the spiciest peppers in the world)! Once the spice hit, my friend felt a painful sensation in the center of his chest, he was dizzy and had trouble breathing. We almost went to the hospital because he thought he was about to have a heart attack! Since then, my friend has never trusted Mexican sauces.
PAX: What should travel agents be aware of right now in regards to Air Canada Vacations?
AV: The winter season is already off to a good start for Air Canada Vacations. We’ve had promotions in the market that encourage travellers to book early. Ultimately, when booking early, they will obtain maximum value for their vacation and can benefit from taking advantage of our CareFree and CareFlex plans which include free seat selection, price drop protection and flexibility to make changes.
Not only is this amazing value for customers, it is also a great closing tool for travel agents and a way for them to provide a higher level of service to their clients.
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