While a career in travel may not have been the original plan for TravelBrands’ Bruce Lidberg, it’s certainly been a successful move – 28 years and counting!
“After high school, my plan was to go into the broadcasting industry,” Lidberg tells PAX. “After a few jobs I felt that the pay was not very good for the many long hours put in, so I got into travel instead! I realize now I may not have switched to a ‘get rich quick’ industry, but I have enjoyed every minute of it!”
A familiar face in Western Canada’s travel industry, Lidberg’s travel career has long been tied to TravelBrands; currently the company’s director of sales for Western Canada (based in Edmonton, Alberta), Lidberg has held many roles with companies under the TravelBrands umbrella, starting with Fun Sun Vacations in 1991, where he began in the reservations department and worked his way up to director of sales, the role he held when the company merged with Intair.
“In 2008, the company was bought by Thomas Cook and I became the director of sales – Western Canada," he said. "I have held that role since 2012 when the DeMarinis brothers purchased Thomas Cook Canada, and the company became TravelBrands.”
This week, PAX checks in with Lidberg on family-style dining in Italy, high-fiving Bono and which member of the Bee Gees he can imitate.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
BL: Headphones, cellphone and a laptop.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
BL: This is a tough question to ask a travel person! I love Italy because I would eat pasta everyday if I could. However, you can’t beat strolling around beautiful Stockholm on a nice summer day. Trips with my family to Hawaii are always special and memorable, and I am a music history nut so anytime I can visit New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, London or any other music hotspot I am happy!
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
BL: I try to get in and out of airports as quickly as possible, but I do think YVR is a world-class facility. It's not too big, has a great Fairmont hotel and easy access to the Skytrain if you want to avoid the traffic and parking costs.
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
BL: I love that the travel industry is really a small, tight-knit group. It's kind of like a small community. While there is lots of competition with other companies for the business, the industry is filled with great people who love what they do and there is closeness between us all! In terms of my job, my favourite part is still the interaction with agents and retail partners as well as the different events, trainings and seminars I get to participate in.
I have made many great friends over the years in this business. At TravelBrands, we always try to make it enjoyable and have a few laughs with everyone that attends our events. We are in the travel industry - it should be fun so we do not take ourselves too seriously and I think agents appreciate that about us!
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
BL: I grew up on a family farm in Central Alberta, so vacations were few and far between when I was young. My first “real” vacation on an airplane was when I was about nine. We went to Sweden to visit my Dad’s relatives. I guess that was when I first caught the travel bug and I have been travelling ever since!
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
BL: This is more my wife’s specialty as I tend not be a big buyer of things when on vacation. I did buy an expensive ukulele years ago that my daughter seems to have taken over and mastered. My wife and I returned to Maui to celebrate our 20th anniversary last year and I bought her an expensive ring, which she lost in the garden a few months later never to be seen again. If anyone has a metal detector I can borrow, give me a call!
PAX: Most memorable food/meal you ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
BL: My most memorable meal while travelling didn’t happen in a restaurant but was a lavish homemade feast. My wife and I were visiting friends in the Veneto region of Italy and we were lucky enough to be part of a special family dinner - Italian style! Everything was homemade with traditional family recipes and caught, or sourced locally. The pasta, sauces, fish, veal, vegetables, wine… it was all absolutely wonderful. We sat around a huge table and devoured course after course, with each being better than the last, and washed it all down with prosecco and grappa. This meal went on for hours and I have never been so full in my life!
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
BL: I always have an aisle seat and my pet peeve is constantly getting hit by the bags people have slung over their shoulders as they drag their other bags to get to their seat while boarding. Also, unless you are elderly or physically limited, if you need help to lift your carry-on bag to put it in the overhead bin, you should probably pack less!
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
BL: I make a mean Louisiana-style gumbo, I can fold my tongue in weird shapes, and I also do a pretty good Barry Gibb (from the Bee Gees) impersonation during campfire sing-alongs.
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
BL: Usually up, unless I want to try sleep.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
BL: I have led many FAMs over the years and oh boy, do I have stories!
There was a time when one of the agents sat on a flight from LAX - YVR in business class and thought she was talking to Rosanne Barr the whole flight - only to find out after it was Ann Wilson from the band Heart.
Or when I had to give up my room to an agent and find another hotel to go to at 1 a.m.: the agent she was sharing with snored so loud, she hadn’t slept for three days and our hotel was sold out!
Or, the time I high-fived Bono from U2 at Disneyland, when the cast members were sneaking him and his family onto a ride. (By the way, he is really short!)
The worst one though was when I led a FAM group to Costa Rica and after a long, tiring day on the bus, we arrived at a mountain resort and spa that featured natural thermal hot springs. Right off the bus, I took the group down to the river to show them where the hot springs were located. While I was talking to them (and not paying attention) I stepped on a slippery rock and fell right into the river in my clothes, with my backpack, passport, credit cards, etc. The current was pretty strong. As I was floating away trying to gather all of my stuff in the water, I told the group to go check-in and that I would be fine and would meet them all later! I thought for a while that I may float all the way to Nicaragua before I was going to be able to get out. My passport was soggy for the rest of the trip and the ink had run throughout it, so I was pretty lucky they still accepted it in customs!
PAX: What should travel agents should be aware of right now in regards to TravelBrands?
BL: Not only do we have our very successful Loyalty Program but we also recently gave away $10,000 to a lucky agent and agency in our Cash Giveaway Promotion. This summer, we launched our 100 Days of Summer Incentive with daily winners from all bookings made right to Sept. 30, 2019. For every booking made with TravelBrands, agents will be entered into a daily draw, where they will have the chance to win an Amazon Echo.
Our recent partnership with Uplift has given us another avenue to support agents, and help clients book the vacation of their dreams. Now, travel agents all across Canada have the option to offer a monthly payment plan to their clients through TravelBrands! Clients will be able to pay for their travel in 12 easy payments, making travel more accessible and affordable. This technological implementation is just another step TravelBrands is taking to ensure travel agents get the tools they need to succeed.
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