If there was one person who could truly be called an icon of the travel industry, it was Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
TORONTO — Entrepreneur and travel industry veteran Frank Orlando, who built up a thriving B2B travel tech business after getting his start with wholesalers including Skylark Holidays and CP Air Holidays, has passed away.
Making his home in Collingwood, ON in recent years, Frank passed away on Friday, July 5 at the age of 63.
Michelle Pinard, the love of Frank’s life and, like Frank, a well-known name in the travel industry, says funeral details and a celebration of Frank’s life will be announced shortly. Frank and Michelle married in 2003.
Social media-savvy travel agents across the country knew Frank as the man behind Travelwatch, which created a B2B social media marketing tool for retailers using the agent’s own Facebook page.
The Travelwatch tool posts unique, commissionable travel products directly on the agent’s Facebook page using technology by BranchUp.
The product launched in 2015 and Frank worked tirelessly to get the word out: “The posts are curated, so there are no links to booking engines, the call to action is back to the agent,” he said. The company’s permission-based email customer campaigns generate more than 2 million emails per month, all driven by a series of unique proprietary applications and business model designed and developed by Frank.
Travelwatch was acquired by partner BranchUp.com in 2017. BranchUp was founded by Michael Drever, another familiar name in the industry as founder and former CEO of Expedia CruiseShipCenters.
While BranchUp became the sole brand, Travelwatch principals Frank and Michelle continued their roles in supplier relations and content production within the BranchUp team. The company currently supports 1,000+ travel advisors with plans to grow to 10,000 subscribers by 2020.
Frank left his mark on the travel industry, not just through his companies but through the friends he made as well.
Sue Webb, President of VoX International and a friend of Frank’s for more than 40 years, shared her memories.
“When you mention Frank Orlando, everyone smiles. He was bigger than life.
“Frank has a very quick wit and a wicked sense of humour. He was a true renaissance man – an incredible chef, designer and incredibly well read and well informed. He wanted to be an architect or a concert pianist!
“Frank joined the SkyLark Holidays Sales team in 1979, his beginning in the tour operating business. He was the sales rep for Northern Ontario and Manitoba. Our sales team was so fun, young and crazy and wanted to make our agents remember us, so we did very unique events and presentations.
“I have memories of Frank dressing up as an English king during one of our Eaton Travel product training events. The costume called for tights and a crown, both of which he enjoyed wearing! He was always up for fun, but was all business.
“Although he had fun doing travel shows, like ACTA Manitoba, and sales calls, his true calling was the product development department negotiating with hotels in the Caribbean. He spoke Italian and Spanish, which was an asset to his product buying.
“He was respected by his peers and his hotel partners. To this day he has friends he met in his early days buying product in the Caribbean including developing an all-inclusive hotel resort in Cuba.
“Frank worked with SkyLark, CP Air Holidays, Thomson Vacations and Regent as well as contract work with Sears Travel, so he has so many, many friends in the travel industry both in Canada and around the world. Frank was an astute business entrepreneur at heart, and developed some innovative business solutions during his career, including TravelWatch, which is now part of the BranchUP company.
“In the past few years, Frank and his wife and business partner, Michelle Pinard, moved to Collingwood.
“Frank loved life, loved Michelle, loved his family, loved his dog Paco, loved to travel, love his motorcycle, loved good wine and good food and cherished his friends. There was no better friend to have than Frank.
“As one of his friends said, ‘People gravitated towards Frank, his presence was like no other, he was loving, kind, generous and thoughtful. You can tell by the amount of friends that he has accumulated over the years that he was a man that was deservedly well loved.’
“He will be missed by so many, but never forgotten.”
Michelle says Frank’s Celebration of Life event will be held at the R.S. Kane Funeral Home, 6150 Yonge Street in Toronto (647-556-5461) on Friday, Sept. 6 from 3 – 5 p.m.