Nancy Drolet has been working as a business development representative for the Caribbean Tourism Organization for just over two years now, but she's been in the business of travel for quite some time.
"I joined the travel business in 1981 with Fiesta Holidays as a reservations agent; I applied right out of travel college and was hired before the fall selling season began," Drolet says.
Currently residing in Bolton, Ontario, Drolet's main responsibilities are to organize trade, consumer and media events on behalf of the CTO to promote the Caribbean region to the Canadian consumer and travel trade.
"I liaise with the tourism boards that are the government members of our organization – we currently have 24 government members," she tells PAX. "I’m another resource for the retail industry to answer questions on the Caribbean, particularly on our member countries that aren’t represented here in Canada."
Here, PAX checks in with Drolet to learn more about that time a magazine perfume sample made her flight a little more bearable, a Costa Rican dinner she'll never forget, and a prized souvenir she found in Nassau, Bahamas.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Nancy Drolet (ND): My iPhone, my iPad and a moisturizer! Planes and hotels just suck the moisture right out of your skin.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
ND: One of my favourite trips was actually a Windstar Cruise of the Caribbean. I love small, intimate ships where you get to meet and talk with an interesting group of international guests. And I love that the size of the ship allows you to visit the less visited islands – like Bequia (in St. Vincent & the Grenadines).
Of course, Italy – such an amazing and historic country. A trip to Italy usually means visiting family east of Venice but I love exploring Rome and Florence too. I haven’t made it south of Rome yet – so that’s a bucket list item.
I also love to ‘glamp’ in Ontario. With a group of friends, we usually go weekend glamping in Ontario. I love the quiet, misty mornings by a lake, and the conversation and fun around campfires at night.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
ND: That’s a tough one. It’s easier to tell you which airports I would choose to avoid! I’ve had some interesting delays and sleepovers in airports – that I wouldn’t care to repeat. Although there are lots of amenities in the bigger airports, I guess I’d rather travel through smaller airports for ease of travel.
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
ND: I love that no two days are ever the same. That our industry is always growing and changing and improving and that we are so lucky to be able to speak to clients, trade and media about some of the most wonderful places in the world. There is always something new and exciting. We never stop learning something new.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
ND: The first vacation that I truly remember was a trip to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. It was a family vacation to the old Shalimar Hotel. I had never seen water so clear, and sand so white and thus began my love of beaches. The food, the music, the International Bazaar – it was so different from anything I had ever seen before. A few years later, we visited Cuba. The destination rep was wonderful and made a great impression on me – and I knew then that that’s what I wanted to do! I did become a destination rep for Fiesta Holidays based in Cancun for a few years. It's a great experience to live outside your country!
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
ND: I think the biggest splurge was a strand of pearls in Nassau, Bahamas. I’d rather spend money on experiences, and fondly remember taking helicopter tours in Alaska and Saint Lucia. But I think that necklace was my biggest one-time purchase.
PAX: What's the most memorable meal you've ever eaten while travelling?
ND: San Jose in Costa Rica. Fiesta had a full plane FAM to San Jose when we first started the program there. I had the privilege of escorting the Minister of Tourism around Toronto before the FAM, and had asked him for a suggestion for an authentic Costa Rican restaurant that a group of agents and I could visit on our free night.
He ended up arranging for Jeeps to take us to a restaurant in the hills overlooking San Jose, with no electricity. We had to go into the kitchens to get our food ourselves.
We ate on tin plates with spoons (no forks), with tin cups filled with a beverage roughly translated as a ‘witches brew’. When the clouds cleared, we had an amazing view of San Jose. It was a lovely evening. The Minister came himself with four of his children!
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
ND: I guess people that should stay home! People who travel with unrealistic expectations and who are impatient, demanding and treat the locals in any country with disdain. I think most people in travel share my views – we love learning new things, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures. That’s what travel is all about.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
ND: I speak a few languages? I’m not sure it’s a hidden talent! I like to paint – but walls, not on a canvas. I’m tracing our family tree and have discovered a dubious connection to a Mayflower immigrant?
PAX: Checked bag or carry-on?
ND: Carry on when I can, absolutely.
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
ND: Both. Down at night or when there is a movie on to be respectful of others. Up when taking off or landing, or when there is something to see!
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
ND: We could all write a book, I’m sure. I do remember a particularly stinky flight from Thunder Bay to Toronto after a travel show. I lucked out with the middle seat, between two burly fishermen who had been in the bush for two weeks, and hadn’t seen a shower. I was so grateful that I had a magazine with one of those perfume strips! I spent the whole flight with my nose in the magazine, literally!
PAX: What should travel agents be aware of right now in regards to the Caribbean Tourism Organization?
ND: 2019 is the Year of Festivals in the Caribbean, and we have an online guide with a calendar of events that agents and consumers can access to see what activities are going on in each country.
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