“Travel is in my blood. I can’t imagine doing anything else!” says Amanda Morris, business development manager for Ontario at Playa Hotels & Resorts.
Morris started her travel career as a reservations agent at Hola Sun in early 2001. However, it wasn’t long before she found herself packing her bags for the west after accepting an opportunity at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
Then, a hiccup.
“About a week before I was scheduled to leave, 9/11 happened and, unfortunately, the resort was laying people off, and like much of the industry, it was on a hiring freeze until further notice,” Morris tells PAX. “With no job now and no opportunities in the industry, I spent two years in retail until finally getting back into travel as an agent with Flight Centre.”
Since then, Morris has worked as a travel agent, a wedding travel team manager, and a business development manager for tour operators and hoteliers.
“Although it is an ever-changing industry with things happening literally every day, what keeps us all here and connects us all is the passion to travel,” Morris says. “I love the community of people in this industry and I am lucky enough to be in a position where I get to interact and meet with different people all the time.”
As a BDM for Playa Hotels & Resorts, connecting with Canada’s travel communities is all in a day’s work for Morris, who resides in Courtice, ON.
On any given day, Morris can be seen visiting travel agencies within her territory, providing property updates and trainings, creating marketing plans, supporting account consumer marketing initiatives, hosting FAM trips and representing Playa Resorts at conferences and trade shows along.
Not to mention staying active on social media – as many industry insiders know, Morris has been embroiled in a (friendly) t-shirt popularity war online with her Western Canada counterpart, Freddie Marsh, all summer long.
(Long story, but you can read all about it here).
“The most important thing for me to do in my role is to be available and approachable,” Morris tells PAX. “It has always been a priority to me that emails are responded to in a timely manner and that I answer the phone when it rings whenever possible. I worked in retail for many years and I know that when my phone rings it is, nine times out of 10, a quick question that I can answer within seconds.”
To that end, she adds: “I am confident that the agents in my territory trust me and know that they can rely on me if they ever need anything. That’s something I am super proud of and work hard for every day!”
Here, PAX checks in with Morris to chat about her "happy place," that time she dyed her hair bright red while travelling through Scotland, and her biggest travel pet peeve.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Amanda Morris (AM): I never go anywhere without a book or two (like real paper books as I just can’t get into digital books), head phones and my cell phone of course! Oh, and slippers. Sorry, you asked for three things, but I can’t go away without slippers.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
AM: My home away from home is 100 per cent Jamaica! In fact, my exact “happy place” is my Aunt’s home in the Blue Mountains. There is something so therapeutic about being thousands of feet above and away from everything and everyone else with the most spectacular views.
Many years ago I fell madly in love with southern Spain, but specifically Seville. The City of Seville and its spectacular streets lined with thousands of orange trees will forever have a piece of my heart.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport?
AM: To me, an airport is an airport. I don’t love any one in particular over another, but for argument’s sake, I am Toronto girl so I have to say YYZ!
PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?
AM: I say it all the time, I work for the most incredible company and it certainly makes the job of a BDM much easier when the properties you represent are so spectacular! I absolutely love and can’t help but get super excited whenever I have the chance to talk to people about my resorts. And nothing beats having the opportunity to not only travel to these resorts but to also bring agents with me and watch them enjoy everything we have to offer for the very first time. There are literally spots at each and every resort that I rush to first so I can see people’s faces as they enter!
And although my outside friends and family will never understand, I not only welcome the chaos of tradeshow season, but I look forward to it because I know I will get to see some of my most favourite people, often for days in a row (us BDMs are a lot closer than people might believe, even the competition). I am forever grateful for all of the incredible friendships I have developed over the years!
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
AM: My very first vacation aside from our childhood camping trips every weekend was the month I spent in Scotland when I was in grade six. My best friend’s parents were from Scotland, so one summer I was invited to go with her and her brother to spend a month with their grandparents. In hindsight, I can’t believe my parents sent 11-year-old me away for a month to stay with people they have never met (the grandparents) but I guess getting rid of one of your five girls (yes, I have four sisters) for a month had its benefits. Haha. Although I can honestly say I didn’t appreciate Scotland in the same way I would now, it was a life-changing experience that included cute boys with very cool accents, shaving my legs for the first time and dying my hair bright red! Oh to be 11 again...
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
AM: Hmm. I don’t think I’ve ever splurged on any one particular item on a trip. Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop (probably more then I should), but I am not an extravagant shopper. I love finding awesome deals!
PAX: What’s the most memorable meal you’ve eaten while travelling?
AM: Not that this was the best food I have had ever (although it was very good), my most memorable meal while travelling was many years ago on Sao Miguel Island in the Azores. I was on a Conquest (blast from the past) FAM and myself and some others enjoyed a lovely dinner on an outdoor patio on one of their cobblestone streets. While we were there, we spent our time practicing over and over how to ask for ice cream in Portuguese. The island (at the time, at least) was very authentic and very few people spoke English so we were determined to learn how to ask for our dessert in their local language. Once we were done dinner, we walked to the man on the side of the road selling ice cream and with our best effort asked for our ice cream in Portuguese...only for him to repeat our order back to us in perfect English! Of all the people to ask. Haha.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
AM: One of my biggest pet peeves is when people have over-the-top conniptions over flight delays due to mechanical issues. Don’t get me wrong, I want to get to where I am going to just as much as the next person, but freaking out on the poor flight attendant’s or the girl/guy at the counter is not going to change anything. They have zero control over what is happening (don’t shoot the messenger). Does it suck? One hundred per cent. But what is important to me is that I arrive to where I am going safely and on a plane with working toilets! So be nice, people. Have a cocktail.
PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?
AM: Shade up for sure! Watching as we make our decent and come in for our landing never gets old no matter how many times I do it or how many times I have taken the exact same flight.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
AM: Oh my, I still laugh when I think of it. I was flying between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie on Bearskin Airlines. From where I was sitting in the departure lounge, I knew our aircraft had arrived but couldn’t see it. I knew the plane was going to be smaller than anything I had flown on before, but I hadn’t looked at any pictures. So when I exited the lounge and turned the corner to where our teeny tiny plane was waiting for us, I couldn’t help but burst into laughter! I’m not sure if it was a combination of exhaustion and the site of our pilot using a step stool my children would use to load the baggage into the nose of the plane, but I was laughing uncontrollably. It took several minutes for me to control myself enough to get on to the plane in my business attire, including my five-inch heels to sit among about 20 men and one woman heading home for the weekend from the mines (one of us did not fit in). Thankfully, they all had a great sense of humour and teased me about it being my first time with Bearskin. Before I knew it, I was seated amongst them and was included in the conversations about their week and updates on their families including pictures of new grand babies being passed around. Turns out they make this commute together often.
PAX: What should travel agents know right now about Playa Hotels & Resorts?
AM: What we at Playa Resorts are most excited about right now is everything we have going on in the Dominican Republic this year starting with the arrival of our Twins (the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana and Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana) Opening in November. These resorts are going to be 375 rooms each. With this being the first time we have built resorts from the ground up, the accommodations and facilities are going to be beyond exceptional. We cannot wait! In addition to those two properties, we are thrilled to reopen the Hilton La Romana Resorts after spending this year completely renovating them. Hilton La Romana Adults in now open and Hilton La Romana Family will be opening this December. These resorts are trying really hard to take over the number one place on my list of favourite Playa Resorts. Haha.
It is a very big year for us in the DR and we are celebrating by offering Double the Points to all travel agents who book and register any of our five DR resorts between now and December 15th for travel right through to the end of 2020. Plus FAMs, FAMS, and more FAMS are coming very soon!
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