with Leah Miller of Merit Travel in Sudbury, Ontario

How long have you been in the business? 20 years, almost 12 with Merit. 

What was your first job? (Laughs) Bussing tables at the local Sheraton here in Sudbury.  I was 14 and have no idea what I was paid.

Tell me about your first airplane ride. I went to Helsinki – I’m half Finnish. I still have my junior flyer pin.

How has the business changed since you got into it? The expectations are lot higher, margins are lower, clients are more informed.

Do you have a specialty? I have worked in many areas but leisure is my specialty. I love selling dreams – the more exotic the better.

If you could have any job in the business what would it be? Product development – it’s great to dig down and finding something unique.

What was your best FAM? Honduras – it blew my mind.  It’s a really hidden treasure, with ruins, ecotourism. I learned to scuba dive down there.

What drives you crazy? Do you really want to know?  (Laughs) Shoppers that use your expertise and book online.  We tease them to bring them on board and close the sale.

If you could have a secret weapon what would it be? I have it!  Merit Travel has specialty divisions such as golf, ski, small ship cruises and groups. It’s fabulous to have that at your fingertips.  

Sudbury‘s going through some tough economic times – how does that affect the agency? You’re right, but people are still travelling.  We had a record month in December, of all months!  We’re frosty up here so people want sunshine.  

What was your biggest individual sale? I had a really interesting sale recently, not my biggest but really neat.  The clients started with one of our small ship cruises from Mauritius to Cape Town and then added more cruises and a safari, and ended up booking a 46 day itinerary.  It just snowballed.

Do you have any time management strategies? Prioritize and itemize and don’t micro manage. Because when you get stuck on the small stuff you’re lost.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received? Believe in yourself and then others will return the favour.

If you had to spend six months in a destination, which one would you pick? Ireland – it’s the only place where I’ve gotten off the airplane and felt like I’ve come home. Wherever we stopped we made a friend.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Probably travelling the world with my boys (aged 4 and 5) or having a little B+B in some remote part of the world. That would be interesting!

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