SKÅL – Who, What, Why?
with Sarah Dawson

Michele Rauzon, Alio with
Leslie Lorette, Avis Budget

Ron Pradinuk, Journeys Travel & Leisure Supercentre YWG; Patrice Bell, VoX International & Don Churchill, eTravel Technologies

Jennifer Waver & Cathy Dineen, Manulife Financial flank Kevin McAdam, Thomas Cook Financial Services

The SKÃ…L FAM scene

When I was asked if I wanted to cover the SKÅL FAM event I will admit I was a little hesitant. The mention of SKÅL brought up visions of a boys’ club, Masonic-like and definitely not on my list of entertaining evenings. However, in one of my more objective moods I accepted, and as I found out the reality proved to be something else entirely.

The presentation was made by several key members of the Toronto club, explaining that SKÅL started in 1932, after the inauguration of the first flight between Stockholm and Paris when several businessmen from Paris were invited back to Scandinavia. The warm welcome and friendships from this visit made them all realize the importance of closer relationships among people in the travel industry. And thus the first club was formed – named after the SKÅL toast they had heard so many times on their visit.

The Canadian clubs started with Montreal in 1949. The Toronto club was founded in 1956 and there are now 17 clubs across Canada from Victoria to St. John’s, and over 450 clubs with 20,000 members across the world. The complete list of clubs and locations in Canada can be found at

The reality is that SKÅL was originally an exclusive club and very difficult to get into. It was an all-male environment where attendance was by invitation only and members were forbidden to discuss business. The modern SKÅL is almost the antithesis of this.  The current President of the Toronto Club is Kim Clarke and the Immediate Past President is Jackie Lutz. To become a member now, you may be invited by another member or apply individually, and many different elements of the travel industry are represented in the current member list including: travel agents, tourist boards, hotels, airlines, attractions and wholesaler.   

The presentation helped me realize that the purpose of SKÃ…L is a simple, yet effective one. It’s about shared interest, friendship, good food, drink and conversation. 

The March meeting was held at the Holiday Inn Toronto Airport East and hosted by Sohail Saeed, the GM and Area Director of the hotel, and long-time SKÃ…L member. Chef Thay Tjie came up with a fabulous “Under the Sea†4-course menu including lobster bisque, lobster tail and imaginative Oysters Rockefeller, complemented by Peller Estates wine from Niagara-on-the-Lake, who had also hosted a wine tasting before the meal. As the evening drew to a close I could not help wondering if I had suddenly stumbled on one of the industry’s best kept secrets – that 850 people in Canada had been keeping to themselves.

If every meeting is as enjoyable as this one, and by all accounts they are, I would recommend my travel industry colleagues give it another thought. The annual fees are cheaper than many professional organizations; the venues vary and the food is exceptional. While there are formal club protocols to be observed, everyone seems to participate respectfully and with complete enthusiasm.

Who knows, perhaps the connections and friendships through SKÅL could help your next business venture, aid in a career change, plan your next overseas trip, expand your list of summer weekend cottage getaways or simply provide a release from the daily grind. Check out more at – if you’re up for a healthy helping of good cheer.

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