Lindsay Pearlman may be a boldfaced name in the world of travel – he’s been in the sector for some 30 years – but the professional born and raised in Toronto didn’t start his career with planes, trains and world exploration.
“Back in the day, I started my professional life in the restaurant business,” Pearlman tells PAX. “It’s a very difficult business, but I learned more about people than anything else I’ve done.”
Pearlman eventually moved into financial services, working for General Electric, American Express and later, Ensemble, where he was once co-president.
He has also served on several industry advisory boards, including at Starwood Hotels and Resorts and the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA).
For the past four years, he’s been a senior vice-president at the Travel Leaders Network, a role that involves “wearing a couple of hats,” Pearlman says.
“I work with the acquisition teams in Canada and the U.S. to bring on new members to the network,” he explains. “I also lead the Associates division, which is the franchise network in the U.S.”
The travel pro has been focused on the leisure side of travel for the last 19 years.
“I kind of evolved into this side of the business,” Pearlman says. “I was working for American Express and managed the business travel side of things, which lead to the supplier relations side, which evolved into the leisure side. It’s very different, but much more fun!”
What does he love about the industry?
“This is a great question, which most people not in the business will never understand, but it’s the people,” Pearlman says. “I know that sounds cliché, but many of us are blessed with the opportunity to travel and experience the most amazing things. We all do this together, so you make friends and create bonds that other industries just don’t do – especially with competitors.”
He says the more he travels, “the less I know.”
“Regardless of where I go, there is always so much to learn with very different perspectives,” Pearlman says. “Life is very different. What makes people happy living in the Amazon to walking the streets of Istanbul varies significantly.”
Here, PAX Checks In with Pearlman to discuss late-night snacks in Turkey, how his first name can sometimes cause confusion, and the power of positive thinking.
PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?
Lindsay Pearlman (LP): Passport, Nexus card (greatest thing) and really comfortable shoes. Anything else can be replaced!
PAX: What’s your favourite airport?
LP: Amsterdam! It just works and the shopping is great (for those last-minute gifts, of course). The list of least favourites is much longer!
PAX: What was the first trip you ever took?
LP: I was one of those Florida kids during Christmas, so great family memories. That said, my first trip with friends was to Acapulco when I was 18. My relationship with tequila has never been the same!
PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip?
LP: We just did a big family trip to Israel, which was a big deal. As for buying stuff, we really don’t do a splurge. There a few things we do – we like to buy small pieces of art that we put up in our home as a reminder of our travels. Nothing fancy or expensive. Just unique, locally done and easy to get home.
PAX: What's the most memorable meal you've ever had while travelling?
LP: Some of the best meals I’ve had are more often the most casual, and it’s about the people you are experience it with that always come to mind – 2 a.m. on the streets of Istanbul eating these little burgers they sell for a dollar is a great example. Or pizza while walking through Venice. As for a fancy meal, I had the opportunity to enjoy a Michelin dining experience in Cannes. That was insane and hysterical because most of us had no idea what we were eating. That said, it was pretty good!
PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
LP: People in security lines. What don’t you get about water bottles after all this time?
PAX: What is your funniest travel anecdote?
LP: There’s an ongoing theme in my travel world with the name Lindsay. More often than not, I’m told there is no reservation for me. That usually turns into ‘she hasn’t checked in as yet’ to ‘No, I’m Lindsay.’ It’s usually pretty funny. Unless I’m checking in at 3 a.m.
PAX: Would you travel for a month in luxury or for a year on a budget?
LP: I’ll take the year on a budget! Don’t take me wrong, I love luxury travel, and I know that experience can be different depending on where you are, but it also separates you from everyday people and the experience that it brings. The destination isn’t about an old building, but more about the people in that building. Of course, the only caveat is that I still don’t have to stand in line (okay, so I’ll take a little bit of luxury).
PAX: What do you consider your greatest achievement in recent years?
LP: As we come out of the pandemic, there are lots of opportunities. I’m fortunate to work with a company that’s open to change, so we have evolved how and what we do. It’s been great to lead many of those efforts and see the results with growth and satisfaction levels. I’m having fun!
PAX: What is your motto?
LP: I’ve got a few, but the one that overrides them all is PMA (Positive Mental Attitude). We all have a choice to make when we get up in the morning. Is it a good day or a bad day? Now, don’t get me wrong, we all have bad days, but if we approach the day positively, it makes it easier to deal with the bad stuff. It actually does take work to remind yourself of this but, over time, it becomes who you are. It’s something I truly believe regardless of how annoying it can be.
PAX: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
LP: Life and travel are journeys. Perfect happiness assumes a destination. Why not enjoy the ride instead? It goes to the whole PMA thing. Nothing in life is a straight line, so there are always ups and downs. Enjoy the little things along the way and that’s a pretty good recipe for happiness. Can you imagine spending all of your time striving for perfect happiness only to realize it’s not what you thought once you achieve it?
PAX: What is your biggest fear?
LP: “Feel the fear and do it anyways” – Susan Edwards. There’s lots to be afraid of, but we learn that most of those fears are baseless. Okay, maybe a delayed flight and missing my connection, but that’s really an inconvenience!
PAX: Who is your favourite singer or band?
LP: That’s a loaded question. My favourite era is between 1975 to 1985. The Beatles (broke up in 1970, but still a huge influence), Police, ELO, Supertramp, Rolling Stones, Boston, Billy Joel, Elton John, Genesis, and, of course, the Eurythmics because Annie Lennox could sing the phone book and it would be amazing. If I have to describe what a phone book is, you won’t get it.
PAX: What are your hidden talents?
LP: I’m not afraid to speak in public! I know that can be crushing to people but it’s never really bothered me.
PAX: How has the pandemic changed your outlook on life and business?
LP: It has in a major way. There has and continues to be big changes and evolution to our business. The old question of “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is laughable. What that means is anything is possible and all ideas are open for discussion. It’s exciting times with the right attitude. I’m grateful to be working for a company that’s open to that conversation and willing to invest in those opportunities.
PAX: What’s the biggest challenge facing the travel industry right now?
LP: There’s a couple of ways at looking at this. Change allows us to shake things up and make the status quo a thing of the past. That said, there is no playbook for the future, so you have to be creative on what you want to be and do. It’s exciting, because you get to make that choice, but you have to do it, otherwise you may become irrelevant. AI will impact our industry, but we can control what that looks like and how it can be a benefit, not a hinderance.
PAX: What is this year’s top travel trend?
LP: Everything is hot right now! Europe for the summer is becoming impossible but still doable. 2024 bookings continue to be solid as well. It’s great to see! Pick a lane, become an expert and own the segment.
PAX: What should travel advisors know right now about the Travel Leaders Network?
LP: When looking at your business, ask yourself what you need to grow and prosper. Align yourself with a company that provides the tools and services you need – technology as you need, flexible marketing, inclusive culture, training and most importantly, support. I believe TLN offers choice and flexibility to do just that. It’s no longer about going back to 2019 and continuing from there. It’s about building on 2022 – on our new reality!