Susan Kooiman started her career as a travel agent more than two decades ago after graduating from Seneca College’s travel and tourism program. Today, she’s a senior business development representative of key accounts at Transat, a role that keeps her well-connected with home-based, ethnic and call centre travel agencies.
“I ensure they have all the tools to sell Transat, keeping them trained throughout the year and assisting them with increasing their business development with Transat,” Kooiman, who lives in Pickering, ON, tells PAX.
This year, Kooiman celebrates 15 years at Transat and doesn’t take a single moment for granted.
“I love all the amazing people I’ve met along the way,” Kooiman says. “Relationships are so important to me and so are all the amazing travel opportunities I have been given.”
Here, PAX checks in with the upbeat and effervescent travel pro to chat about castles in Prague, the ring she lost at Disney World and the sky-high activity you won’t see her doing again anytime soon.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Susan Kooiman (SK): My sunglasses, my travel purse and my husband Mike.
PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?
SK: Prague and Portugal. I love Prague because it’s just so beautiful and rich in history. It’s great as you can take the train to so many neighbouring countries. Portugal is mine and my husband’s favourite place to wander around, explore at our own pace and embrace the local culture.
PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?
SK: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, hands down. They have a good thing going there with lots of restaurants, shops and access to the train.
PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?
SK: Walt Disney World in Orlando with my parents and brothers when I was five-years-old. My Mother bought me this beautiful dress that had strawberries on it to wear while we were there and I thought it was so special. I remember losing my brand new Minnie Mouse ring in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride when I put my hand in the water. From that trip onward, my family was hooked and we travelled every year as a family all over.
PAX: What’s the last travel photo you took on your phone?
SK: One from a road trip my husband I and took to Nova Scotia this past summer.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel fear?
SK: Zip-lining again. I’m still traumatized from the heights when I did it in Costa Rica, but it was definitely checked off my list.
PAX: What’s the most memorable food/meal you have ever eaten on a trip?
SK: Dinner outside on the water at the bottom of Prague Castle. It was the perfect setting as the sun went down and the heaters where turned on at the restaurant and they gave everyone a blanket. There was no rush to leave.
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
SK: Waiting and lines. I just want to get the trip started!
PAX: What advice would you offer to people getting started in the travel industry?
SK: Travel as much as you can. It’s easier to sell the experience. FAMs are great for getting out and seeing the hot spots.
PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?
SK: We were in Greece last summer and booked many excursions to get the most out of our trip. We woke up one morning only to realize that we mixed up a date and missed one of our excursions. It must have been that Greece heat.