Phillip Solomon was still living in Cape Town, South Africa when he first started seriously thinking about the travel industry.
At the time, he was working as a history teacher.
"I enjoyed history when I was at school and studied it at the University of Cape Town with Sociology as my second major," Solomon recalls.
From there, Phillip went on to work in the public relations department for an insurance company where he eventually became the senior manager.
"I was involved in all aspects relating to company image, annual reports, sponsorships and donations as well as the incentive travel programs for the company’s top performers," Solomon said. "That is when I got involved in travel. It was my responsibility to come up with a number of suggestions for destinations and then to travel with the group to ensure that all went according to plan. I was fortunate enough to travel to Hong Kong, Thailand, Israel, the UK and Brazil, and that was the start of the travel bug. When I arrived in Canada I completed a travel course and the rest is, of course, history!"
As the general manager for Tourcan Vacations, Phillip Solomon is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company and all aspects relating to sales, marketing, training and development.
This week, PAX checks in with Phillip to learn more about the most prized souvenir that's hanging in his office, the one dish he's really good at making, and that time he was chased by a mob of angry Turkish women.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Phillip Solomon (PS): My Reader (or book), energy bars, clean socks, T-shirt and underwear in the carry-on, especially on long haul flights (just in case the checked luggage does not arrive; it’s happened a couple of times!).
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
PS: India is a destination that is historically, culturally and spiritually overwhelming – in a good way that is. The experiences I had there, from Rickshaw rides, the sunrise cruise on the Ganges, attending an Arti ceremony, the breathtaking Taj Mahal, participating in the Holi Festival to the friendliness of the people and the fabulous food will always be remembered. India touched my soul.
Okay, so I’m a bit biased, but I never get tired of the diversity that South Africa has to offer despite having lived there and travelled there extensively. I never get tired of a safari experience that brings me close to nature and takes me away from the craziness of the world that we live in, if only for a short time. But, it is always memorable.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
PS: Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. It's easy to navigate, it has good signage, and there's lots to see and do there. It's also close to the city if you have a day or night layover with easy access by train. I often opt to break my journey in Amsterdam and stay at an airport hotel and take the train into town. I've also always found the staff to be friendly and helpful. Even though it is a large airport it never feels overwhelmingly busy.
PAX: What do you love about your job?
PS: The interaction with people across all cultures and the opportunity it gives me to travel and visit destinations that I would probably not have gotten to experience, had I not been in the travel industry. My job involves training and presentations which brings me into contact with travel professionals who want to learn more about our company and product – I get a thrill every time I am able to present to them and personally meet them. Also, I work with a terrific team of colleagues - they make my job so much easier.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
PS: Wow, this goes back a long, long time, when I was still living in South Africa. I went to Europe with some friends and did the typical “if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium” style travel. I was teaching history at that time and while traveling in Europe I got to see and learn so much of what I was teaching. It really helped me enhance my discussions in the classroom.
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
PS: A beautiful Moroccan carpet that hangs in my office. It took a lot of bargaining to get it to a reasonable price!
PAX: Most memorable meal you've ever ate while travelling and where you ate it?
PS: Definitely a Chicken Biryani at the Rambagh Palace Hotel in Jaipur, India. I can be a bit fussy with food and they catered to my special requests – it was terrific!
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
PS: I’ve got a couple. People who try to invade my space on an aircraft and having to listen to folks chatting very loudly on their cell phone while waiting for a flight or on the aircraft prior to departure, especially if they are sitting next to me! Thank goodness for noise-cancelling headsets.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
PS: Is running a hidden talent? I enjoy participating in races up to about 21km. I also enjoy cooking, with soup being my specialty!
PAX: Checked bag or carry-on?
PS: If it's more than three days or a long-haul, always checked.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
PS: I was escorting a FAM in Turkey. We were walking in the Grand Bazaar area in Istanbul and I needed a washroom. I finally found one, but I couldn't get the turnstile to work, so I climbed over it as I was getting desperate. I entered the door amidst screaming and shouting from people around me thinking they were angry because I climbed over the turnstile, but I had to get in there! Once inside, I discovered I had entered the ladies toilet and was ushered out very quickly and chased out of the area. (I did find a washroom further down the road!).
PAX: What are 1-2 things travel agents should know right now about Tourcan Vacations?
PS: Tourcan Vacations has 32 years’ experience in customizing tours, safaris and pre and post-cruise arrangements through Africa, Asia, South/Central America, The South Pacific and more. Not only are we a tour operator, but also an airline consolidator, so we can do all your air arrangements for individuals or groups. We've also just introduced our brand new Women of the World Tours and photographic tours and safaris!
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