As I enter my 53rd Year in tourism it’s perhaps time to reflect on some of the very many experiences and opportunities this incredible industry has brought to me.
Having spent a prolonged period as a child in hospital being treated for what, at that time, was a disease with a 50% mortality survival rate, the seemingly endless days were abridged with second hand copies of National Geographic magazines. Even in the late nineteen fifties the journals photography was outstanding and it was those images which drove my relentless interest in travel.
My first ‘voyage’ of discovery was at the age of 16 years hitch-hiking from England to Istanbul in Turkey.
I vividly recall seeing Paris for the first time and trying to comprehend how a city, so close to London, could be so strikingly different. Paris would later become the most popular destination for our tour operation company and I would re-visit literally hundreds of times, without for a single second, losing any of its magical appeal.
Soon after, I travelled to Canada and whilst maintaining two jobs, one at McDonalds and another as a waiter at the Lock, Stock and Barrel, it allowed me to volunteer my services to a local travel agency to acquire the necessary skills to make a living within the industry.
Whilst still in the travel industry I replied to an advertisement in the British Sunday Times placed by a Swiss based company, Globus Gateway. They invited me to an interview which took place in a nondescript third floor office in Oxford street in Londons West end. At the time I felt the interview went badly for me and I returned to Canada. Days later an invitation arrived to join a training tour taking in as many European countries as there is in a week.
Looking back it is now easy to understand that this training tour was for me, and the other 20 plus hopefuls, an endurance test for physical and mental ability.
Once again, so doubtful that I had secured the job as a Tour Director I returned to Winnipeg. To my absolute astonishment about a week later a telex arrived in my office on Portage Avenue instructing me to collect all relevant documentation to guide T628. The ‘T’ indicated the type of European tour and the ‘628’ the date it started – 28th June.
Fortunately, the 36 Americans booked on T628 arrived at Heathrow and spent the first two nights in London, a city that I had an intimate knowledge of. But, that was just the beginning. T628 turned out to be the longest tour operated by the company – 47 days duration, taking in 16 sovereign countries, 4 of which I had never visited before! 3 days later later I and the group flew to Madrid to begin the Continental European portion. In broken Spanish I introduced myself to the main motor coach driver and sheepishly asked Manuel if he knew Europe well. His response was that he lived in Madrid and occasionally visited Barcelona. He had never been outside of Spain whilst driving a coach….
The adventure began and despite all the associated challenges, I managed to complete the tour almost seven weeks later.
I would always be grateful to Globus for giving me an incredible opportunity and if there is any recognisable moral to this weeks column it is the travel and tourism industry provides an unparalleled platform to advance a career anywhere in the world.