Travel agents do so much more than book travel. They advocate for consumers and colleagues, and try to improve their profession through donating their time and expertise to educating others and sharing best practices.
All of these attributes and more were on display at TMR’s recent Travel MarketPlace in Toronto, when the Association of Canadian Travel Agents (ACTA) and Air Canada recognized the top travel professionals with awards celebrating outstanding achievements in the profession.
Nominations were gathered from across the travel industry and presented to a “non-travel agency” judging panel appointed by ACTA.
This year’s award winners were:
Leisure Travel Agent Award: Lisa Koppert, CTC, travel agent, First Step Travel, London, Ontario.
This award recognizes an agent who “shows versatility and has extensive knowledge about the many travel options available to their clients,” while “keeping clients engaged” and consistently delivering exceptional service.
During the past 10 years of being self-employed in sales, Lisa always was a travel fan, with extensive experience throughout Europe and North America, and expertise in all-inclusive resorts and cruises. She decided to return to college and obtain a degree in Travel and Tourism, and eventually earned her Certified Travel Counselor designation.
Lisa was recognized for her service excellence and dedication to her clients throughout “the entire cycle of trip planning.”
Corporate Travel Agent Award: Judy Kincaid, CTC, senior corporate travel consultant, Uniglobe Premiere Travel Group, Ottawa.
This award recognizes an agent “who delivers excellent service to corporate travelers, living up to duty of care expectations in a timely and efficient manner. This individual must have an exceptional understanding of client needs from a global business travel perspective.”
Judy was recognized for exceptional care and her many awards for sales and service excellence over 29 years, including 26 with Uniglobe.
She graduated with honors from Algonquin College’s Travel Counsellor Certificate Program and has won many awards, including Uniglobe International Counsellor of the Year, Best Performance Excellence in the Uniglobe System, and 2012 Uniglobe Corporate Counsellor of the Year for Eastern Canada.
The Tomorrow’s Leader Award: Melanie McIlroy, marketing manager and tour leader, Craig Travel, Toronto.
This award recognizes “a young potential leader who has shown interest in issues that influence the future of travel, and who is a role model for other young professionals.”
Employed at Craig Travel since 2011, Melanie became an advocate for travel advisors following a self-planned trip to Italy in her early 20s. In her nomination, she was recognized for earning “the respect and admiration of her entire team. She has implemented policies and procedures for the betterment of all team members, and has developed new and successful partnerships with suppliers and advertisers.”
Melanie McIlroy receives her award at Travel MarketPlace.
Melanie also “has been instrumental in database management excellence, building Craig Travel’s new mobile website, and is working steadfast to make Craig Travel a household name among Canadian Boomers.” She earned Constant Contact’s All Star Award for her outstanding email marketing communications for 2015 and 2016.
“Fostering local and international students, Melanie has the drive to share her knowledge of travel and the travel industry with new and inquisitive minds. A caring group leader, Melanie has gone beyond the call of duty for her travelers and industry partners. When faced with a group member with Alzheimer’s, she carried them through a Russian journey, maintaining the enjoyment of the rest of the group.”
Bonita Maguire-Wamsley Award: Robert Craig, CTM, product development manager and tour leader, Craig Travel, Toronto.
The award began in 1995, by Bill and Doris Maguire, in honor of their daughter Bonita, who passed away in 1994 of cancer at 45. The award is presented annually to the person working in an ACTA member agency who achieves the highest mark on the CTM Exam and Case Study.
The Ches Chard Award: Tony Santelli, CTC , director, Collége April-Fortier, Montréal.
This award was established in memory of Ches Chard, who played a key role in education awareness within the industry and was instrumental in establishing the first travel school in the Atlantic Provinces. The award is given to an individual, travel agency or group of travel agencies demonstrating significant commitment to professionalism, education and training, and excellence in human resources management.
Tony Santelli receives his award at Travel MarketPlace.
Tony Santelli has been in the travel industry since 1970, beginning his career at CP Rail and CP Air. After six years, he founded Funtastique Travel in Montreal and began franchising the brand throughout Québec.
Realizing the need for better trained travel agents, he opened a small travel school, The Montréal School of Travel Consultants. In 2003, he joined Collège April-Fortier, Montréal's premier travel school, as director of studies, helping design new courses “to keep ahead of the rapidly occurring changes that consistently affect the travel industry.”
Santelli helped ACTA train hundreds of agents when Québec province passed the Travel Agent Act in 2010. “Tony is dedicated in seeing this industry move forward by training the next generation of travel professionals,” his nomination read.
Gerald Heifetz Trailblazer Award: Peter Keyter, South Travel, Calgary.
This award is presented to an individual or group that has had the “greatest positive impact on the role, status and condition of the Canadian Travel Industry.” It was established in memory of Gerald Heifetz, who helped travel agents, business people and immigrants through his law practice. Heifetz was instrumental in the foundation of ACTA and the Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors, and he helped establish many Canadian travel and airline industry laws.
As a former practicing lawyer and current agency owner, Peter Keyter is considered a trailblazer “who works continually to improve the travel industry for all,” his nomination read.
Serving on the Alberta ACTA Council, Keyter lends his insight and expertise within Alberta and to the ACTA National board. For example, he facilitated and participated in meetings with the Alberta Insurance Council (AIC), to improve insurance legislation, training, and licensing for travel agencies.
He has also worked with ACTA lobbying for a national solution on travel health insurance issues.