With Tom Gehrels Of Toronto’s Adventure Coordinators

This genial 6’5” giant has found a niche that suits his passions perfectly: adventure travel. 

Where were you born? Near Haarlem, in Holland. I came to Canada in 1994.  


What was your first job? Working on the family crop farm – we grew potatoes, wheat, sugar beets.    

How long have you been in the business? Since 1992, starting as a tour guide in Sweden for the tour company Vildmark I Vërmland. I’ve been in retail since 1994.

Tell me about your first airplane ride. It was an hourlong sightseeing tour over Holland to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary. I remember being sick as a dog!

How has the business changed since you got into it? When I started, communication was by telex – the fax hadn’t even been invented yet. Computers eventually came along, but with no windows. I think all the technology we have now is great.

Do you have a specialty? Active and adventure travel. As I like to say, anything that takes you outside your comfort zone.

If you could have any job in the business what would it be? Just what I’m doing, because I love what I do, getting people what they love to do.

What was your best FAM? There were very few I didn’t like. A luxury safari to Botswana comes to mind. But I have also recently gone on wonderful hiking FAMs to the Dolomites and to Ireland.

At 6’5” you must find flying a challenge. Yes, I fly with my legs behind my head! Actually I prefer to fly economy, I just cram myself in with no room to slide around, and go to sleep.

Who do you most admire in the industry? Allan Ronneseth, who started adventure travel in Canada by founding Trek Holidays in Edmonton.

What drives you crazy? Cheap clients.

What’s the first thing you do when you get into a hotel room? Try the bed!

Do you have a magic sentence to close the sale? No. It really depends on who you are dealing with.  

Do you have any time management strategies? Not especially. I do sort my emails, first thing in the morning, by priority.

What do you do to keep your clients loyal? Provide the best service possible. I have a monthly newsletter. If I make a mistake I will make up for it. And I travel a lot.

You must! Your email signature says you’ve been to 103 countries – “and counting.” How many languages do you speak? I speak Dutch and English fluently, German well, Swedish passably, rudimentary French and can understand much Spanish and some Italian.

If you had to spend six months in a destination, which one would you pick? France. I love the lifestyle and the food.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Running a hobby farm with a big vegetable garden and a couple of sheep and cows.  A real back-to-the-land hippy!

If you or someone you know is a front line travel agent in Canada and would like to be featured in Biting Questions, please contact us.

Travellers waiting at the Canada - U.S. Border. Photo courtesy of the Houlton Pioneer Times.
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