Advisors, Agency Execs Name Women in Travel Who Inspire on Int’l Women’s Day

Women officers on a ship deck

Believe it or not, it was only one short year ago that Celebrity Cruises made history with the first-ever all-women bridge and officer team. It included the first American female cruise ship captain and the first African woman ever to work on a cruise ship’s bridge.

It was a spectacular moment, and made it seem like change was really happening.

Fast forward twelve months, and International Women’s Day is here again, after a catastrophic year in travel and for small businesses. Women may be the worst affected. According to ACTA, 90 per cent of Canadian travel agencies are small businesses, and about 80 per cent of travel advisors are women.

Even in this historic year, the travel industry has cause to cheer on International Women’s Day.

Open Jaw asked advisors and agency owners to tell us about women who inspired and continue to inspire their travel careers. From founders, influencers, game changers, supporters to personal champions, Canada’s travel retail community included plenty of women to celebrate this year.

Syndi Prokopich, with Authentic Vacation Designs, says the three women travel advisors, Judith Coates, Brenda Slater, and Nancy Wilson, who banded together to form the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors, “single-handedly created momentum within our industry.”

Prokopich cited ACITA’s lobbying efforts about CRB extensions, commission recalls and consumer refunds. “They were able to get our voices heard in Parliament, by doing one presentation at a time since last year,” she told Open Jaw.

TTAND’s Flemming Friisdahl agrees. “These are so called “everyday women” – who technically work for competitors – who are making a HUGE difference in the travel industry.”

He explained, “They put their own presentation together by first gathering all the facts. They have gone to all the travel agents in Canada to ask them to set up a meeting with their MP in that travel agents riding and they will take care of the entire presentation while STILL making sure that local travel agent is part of the entire presentation. They have single-handedly done over 170 presentation to MPs. They have talked themselves onto being part of more senior calls with MPS also. They always have an ‘ASK’ so something they want the MP to do and they always follow up with social media. Now the MOST IMPORTANT part and why this is very inspiring is, NO MONEY is paid to them.”

“These three ladies are doing it for the love of the Canadian Travel Industry,” concluded Flemming.


“Over the past 27 years, I have been lucky enough to work alongside some very inspiring female leaders who have given me incredible opportunities to learn and achieve my goals,” says Caroline Hay, National Director Sales & Marketing at TPI, “Zeina Gedeon, Vanessa Lee and Geraldine Ree are strong and influential female leaders that have left an indelible mark on me. They are mentors, disruptors, teachers and have done so much over their careers to move females forward and challenged change in the industry. While these three incredible women are all very different, the tie that binds them is their ability to break down walls, push boundaries, and build a path forward.”

Holly McBean and Barb Scrocco name TravelOnly’s CFO Ann Luciani as an inspiration to them, with Scrocco saying she “is a leader, a mentor, a visionary – a woman who has demonstrated great strength and grace! She is a guiding light for her family and her TravelOnly family.”

McBean notes, “Ann visualized and executed their dream of opening Luciani World Travel with her husband Patrick, and raised three children long before the home-based model became prominent. Ann has had to overcome the passing of her beloved Patrick last year along with the pandemic, which has devastated the travel industry. Among all of this, she is still working endless hours to assist us with our business. Ann is an inspiration to all of us.”

Other advisors are inspired by women on the supply side of travel.

“I’ve always been interested in responsible tourism. That interest became a passion, when I met Alison May from Wilderness Safaris at Virtuoso Travel Week in 2016,” TPI advisor Shari Tucker tells Open Jaw. “Alison’s love of the African bush and wild dogs is contagious. Her drive to continue working in tourism and conservation, to make the world better, encourages me to share the message and passion with my clients.”

“I met Marilyn Conroy when I started as a newbie at Cunard Line many years ago,” says Mary Kleen, with Advisor Services at Travel Edge, “I was so impressed that this stunning woman held her own in male-dominated management meetings, never got ruffled, and always had a fantastic laugh: she was my hero! No surprise that she went on to sales executive positions at Crystal, Silversea and now Riviera River Cruises.”

TPI advisor Marilyn Baird is inspired by Kristin Karst, co-founder of AMAWaterways. “I have had the privilege of sailing with Kristin, she is professional, down to earth and throughout COVID, she has been supportive with Zoom meetings, presentations etc. Her mum was on a sailing we were on, I can see where Kristin gets her personality. Her mother is a wonderful lady who is very proud and supportive of her daughter.”

 And another TPI advisor, Donna Flanigan’s, travel career is inspired by her own grandmother. “She taught me that knowledge is to be learned everyday no matter how old you get! Your integrity and respect for what you do will pay you back in more than just money, but in the confidence that you are giving clients your knowledge, helping them and yourself, make lifelong memories. She always said I was a very lucky women, to have been blessed to travel the world alongside some of my best clients, and share so many wonderful experiences together. Of course, she taught me to always have faith in what I do, no matter what!”


Leave a Reply