After graduating high school, Freddie Marsh had no idea what he wanted to do, when—and if—he ever grew up. Then, in 1990, he backpacked across Europe, struck up a few friendships with a group of travel agents, and the rest is history.
"They were telling me about their job and it sounded amazing!" Marsh tells PAX.
When he returned home from Europe, he enrolled in a two-year travel program taught at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB. After graduating, he landed his first job at Fun Sun Tours as a reservations agent. He later moved onto working as a travel agent at Marlin Travel and then at AMA (CAA) Travel.
Today, the Vancouver-based travel pro is a Western BDM for Playa Hotels & Resorts, covering the regions of BC, AB, SK and MB.
"I love the people. We all share a love of travel and I think that creates a special bond," Marsh says. "I really love the camaraderie, even with BDMs from competing companies. We’re all friends."
Here, PAX checks in with Marsh to chat about his "happy place," the traumatic outfit he was forced to wear on a plane, and what it's like to eat at one of the oldest restaurants in the world.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Freddie Marsh (FM): Flying can sometimes give me a headache so I always have my “Peppermint Halo” essential oil from Saje (amazing stuff). I can’t imagine travelling without my wireless noise cancelling headphones (greatest invention ever) and my iPhone loaded with my favourite podcasts.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
FM: I call Palm Springs my happy place. My partner Dave and I bought a little place down there about 10 years ago. It’s a nice and easy, non-stop flight from Vancouver (2.5 hours) so we’re able to go down several times a year, even if it’s just for a long weekend. I love the natural beauty, the sunny weather and the laid-back atmosphere. There’s nothing like an afternoon floating in the pool to take any stress away. I also love all of the great bars/restaurants around town to enjoy a refreshing lemon drop (or perhaps two or three) at happy-hour.
The last few years we have been going to Europe for a couple of weeks each summer and we always make sure to spend at least a few days in London. There is something about the energy in that city that I can’t seem to get enough of. I love all of the history, the great shopping and we try to do a West End show every night. We’ve already got tickets for the new musical 9 to 5 for this summer that I’m super excited about.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport?
FM: PSP [Palm Springs International Airport] baby! Most of the airport is outside and it’s a great size (not too big). Everyone (even TSA) is super friendly and the airport is also right in town so it's super convenient. The only thing I don’t love is that it can be windy coming into Palm Springs so it can be a bit bumpy.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took, and why was it memorable?
FM: Most of our vacations when I was a kid involved driving out to Saskatchewan to visit family every summer, with me in the back of the station wagon with my Archie comics. I remember my first flying vacation was when I was about 11 years old when we took a family trip to Disneyland. For some reason my biggest memory of that trip is what I had to wear for our CP Air flight to LAX. My mom insisted we dress nice for the flight so I was wearing baby blue polyester pants with a yellow and white checkered dress shirt that was super shiny. So 1970s! I remember this so vividly because I think I was traumatized. Even at that young age, I think I knew that outfit was wrong on so many levels! I can’t repress that memory as hard as I try. Sorry, no photos available. [laughs] PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
FM: For longer flights I like to travel at the front of the plane in either Business or Plus whenever possible. It really makes the difference between dreading the flight to actually looking forward to it, so I would say that’s my biggest travel splurge.
PAX: Whats' the most memorable meal you've ever eaten while travelling?
FM: Two summers ago we were in Salzburg and we had lunch at Stiftskeller St. Peter, which is believed to be the oldest existing restaurant in the world. That was such a cool experience and the Wiener schnitzel was amazing…as was the beer.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
FM: Crowding at the gate area and people trying to board [the plane] before their zone is called.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
FM: I don’t mean to brag, but I’m an amazing parallel parker. I can pretty much get into any space on the first try.
PAX: Checked bag or carry-on?
FM: I really wish I could do carry-on, but if it’s anything over a day or two I have to do checked.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
FM: I remember one time Dave and I took Amtrak from New York City to Montreal. Once we arrived we stood in the taxi line for 15 minutes, loaded all of our luggage into the vehicle, got into the cab and told the driver we needed to go to the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel. We did not realize that the hotel is actually located directly above the train station. We were already there!
PAX: What should travel agents be aware of right now in regards to Playa Hotels & Resorts?
FM: Travel agents have been asking us for free nights for as long as I can remember, and if there’s one thing you know about Playa, it’s that we listen. Last week, during our annual Spotlight Awards at Sanctuary Cap Cana, we announced the launch of a new travel agent incentive program called AgentCASH+.
One of the many benefits of the program is that it provides agents with the option to choose between free nights or cash via a gift card that is automatically loaded based upon earnings. Agents can sign up through the travel agent portal (www.agentcashplus.com). The process is simple – every time a booking is made for a resort within the Playa collection, simply report the booking on the site. The credit for the booking will be applied within 7 business days. The best part is that tour operator bookings qualify for the program.
As you know, we’re a brand-first company, giving travel agents a number of options to book reliable resorts backed by global brands. Travel agents have never been able to capitalize on this until today. Agents who partner with Playa Resorts now have the opportunity for guests to earn World of Hyatt and Hilton Honors points on land-only bookings through PlayaResorts.com.
The best part is that this is just the beginning. There’s more exciting updates coming soon.