Amanda Morris

INTERVIEW: From star athlete to hotelier, Playa’s Amanda Morris reflects on her travel journey

TORONTO — Life is never a linear path, as Amanda Morris can certainly tell you.

The travel industry veteran, who currently serves as Director of Sales, Canada at Playa Hotels & Resorts, grew up wanting to become a police officer and an Olympic athlete, with dreams of winning gold in the 100- and 400-metre hurdles. But a series of personal setbacks and an ill-timed teacher strike eradicated all sports activities during her final year of high school and, consequently, a potential athletic scholarship.

Following a period of uncertainty, Morris decided to pursue a career in travel, the only other passion that had always resonated with her. She earned her Travel & Tourism diploma at the International Institute of Travel and joined the team at Hola Sun soon after graduation as a Reservations Agent.

Arm wrestling with Freddie Marsh, BDM-Western Canada

From there, her life’s path continued to follow a few twists and turns, taking her to Banff, Alberta for a stint at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. But the tragic events of September 11 abruptly halted that opportunity before it could even begin, just as she was about to start the job.

But Morris ploughed on, joining the team at Flight Centre Pickering in 2002 as a retail agent. She then landed a one-year contract as Business Development Manager at World of Vacations, followed by the position of BDM for Southwestern Ontario at Unique Vacations Canada, where she represented Sandals & Beaches Resorts. In 2009, she returned to retail, joining the team at LUXE Destination Weddings where, within a year, she was promoted to Travel Team Leader. After leaving LUXE in 2014, Morris soon found herself at her current home at Playa Hotels & Resorts where she eventually became Director of Sales for Canada in 2022.

Now, 22 years after first entering the travel industry, Morris has hit her stride, leading what she describes as the finest sales team in the industry. And though she may have missed out on winning gold for Team Canada all those years ago, her life’s path – with all its twists and turns – has led to incredible new adventures and a long and fulfilling career in travel.

In this latest instalment of Travelweek’s Interview series, launched in celebration of our 50th anniversary, we asked Morris about her early days, the travel agents she’s met along the way, and her advice to those just starting on their own travel journey.

When did you first know that a career in travel may be a right fit for you?

“When the realization struck that a career in policing was no longer my aspiration, I found myself back at square one. Interestingly, it was the recollection of a high school teacher and a particular class that kept resurfacing in my thoughts. In 10th grade, I participated in a ‘Society, Challenge & Change’ course, the centerpiece of which was a project where we had to create our own ‘Dream Vacation.’

“Over the course of several weeks, I created a comprehensive itinerary for an adventurous summer across Europe. This plan included everything from trains, planes to automobiles, as well as accommodations, attraction tickets and even restaurant reservations. Along with a detailed itinerary, I kept a meticulous budget for the entire trip.

“This assignment revealed so many wonderful things Europe had to offer, and what truly elevated this experience was the guidance of my teacher – a world traveller who shared with us his globetrotting adventures. It was his tales of travel that inspired me and ultimately what made me decide to pursue a career in travel.”

You’ve worked with countless travel agents in your career. Do any stand out in particular?

“Over the past 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside many exceptional travel agents. These individuals have filled roles as clients, colleagues and even friends throughout my journey. Interestingly, three of my dearest friends to this day are individuals I initially met as travel agents during the early days of my career at Flight Centre. As time progressed, I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many remarkable agents, both new to the industry and many seasoned professionals. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to cultivate some truly remarkable friendships that continue to enrich my life.”

Amanda with travel agents Liz Liabotis, Jen Pearce, Clara Power, and BDM-Ontario Andi Bacho

How has the nature of working with agents evolved in the past 20 years? What innovations have made it more efficient to work with them?

“Over the past 20-plus years, it has been incredible to see the evolution within this industry. One notable transformation lies in the dynamic between travel agents and suppliers. When I first started my career in the industry, the landscape was quite distinct. Local representation was a rarity, with only a handful of companies, primarily tour operators, who had local BDMs. Hoteliers, cruise lines and some tour companies were among those with limited in-person presence.

“Fast-forward to today and the landscape has undergone a profound shift. The presence of representatives has grown significantly, and the diversity of companies involved has expanded substantially. Travel advisors have truly developed a sense of trust and reliance on their BDM, which is precisely why customers service holds immense significance in our operations at Playa Resorts.

“Certainly, the innovation of new technology has significantly enhanced the efficiency of our roles over the years as well. A perfect example is the capability to host virtual meetings, webinars and even events. And the progress in technology has facilitated the creation of online booking engines and personalized travel agent platforms, such as our exclusive AgentCash+ at Playa Resorts. Through these platforms, agents gain direct access to an array of exceptional selling tools, all conveniently at their disposal.

“Additionally, the impact of social media cannot be overstated. It has revolutionized the way our industry generates new business.”
What’s one thing that you miss, or would bring back, from your early days in travel? And what’s one new thing about travel today that, in your opinion, makes the industry better?

“I must admit, it’s about time WestJet brings back their cheese and cracker platter! Truthfully though, there’s nothing from my past that I’d consider bringing back. From my viewpoint, travel has consistently evolved for the better. The array of products available has broadened, offering increased accessibility for travellers with differing budgets. Moreover, travel quality has advanced significantly, addressing diverse needs such as accessibility and specific dietary preferences. Additionally, technology has simplified the entire travel journey, resulting in a smoother and more seamless experience.

“Without a doubt, one notable improvement I’ve observed within our industry is the strong sense of community. Irrespective of one’s role, there’s a collective support that underpins it all. Personally, as a hotelier, I’ve cherished countless moments spent with travel advisors and fellow hoteliers and suppliers, even those who are direct competitors. And what truly warms my heart is seeing Travel Agent Groups actively participating in discussions, generously assisting each other by sharing ideas and best practices. This spirit of collaboration is genuinely heartening and fills me with immense pride to be a part of this industry.”

Amanda with travel agents Caitlin Lajeunesse, Pamela Walker and Vanessa Martinez

As someone who works with agents every day, what advice do you have for those first starting out in the industry?

“For new travel agents stepping into the industry, my advice is to invest time in learning about the available products. With the abundance of options, it can feel overwhelming, I know, but I suggest starting by focusing on a few brands at a time – beginning with Playa Resorts, naturally! This will help develop a deep understanding of them before expanding.

“Additionally, try to introduce yourself to your BDMs. Ensure they have your contact details and that you’re on their mailing list so that you can stay informed about upcoming promotions, training sessions, FAM trips and more.

“Above all, remember to register your bookings! This step is crucial at Playa Resorts, as it’s the only way for us to identify who specifically is booking our resorts. Given the vast number of travel agents across Canada, registering bookings helps us not only express gratitude for your business, but also enables agents who support us to access opportunities like events and FAMs. And of course, by registering bookings, you can enjoy additional perks such as earning redeemable points for free night stays or cash.”

What do you find most rewarding about working for Playa?

“For nearly nine years, I’ve been part of the Playa team. One of the most rewarding aspects of this journey is the sense of value and appreciation. Although we are a publicly traded company, we still operate in many ways like a small family business. We hold everyone’s thoughts and viewpoints in high regard, irrespective of their role, and we consistently celebrate outstanding ideas and achievements throughout the organization.

“We wholeheartedly live up to our slogan of ‘Service From the Heart’ across all realms, and my pride in being associated with Playa Resorts has never been stronger. Our team is an extraordinary assembly of individuals driven by a shared dedication to ensuring guests at all Playa Resorts have an exceptional experience.

Amanda at Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

What’s one thing that you want Canadian travel agents to know about Playa Hotels & Resorts?

“For Canadian travel agents, what’s paramount to know is that, in my view, we possess the absolute finest sales team in the industry. This team exemplifies the essence of Playa and is genuinely devoted to supporting and aiding in the growth of your business.

“I couldn’t be prouder of Freddie Marsh, BDM for Western Canada (, Andi Bacho, BDM for Ontario (, and Christopher Jeffrey-Racine, BDM for Ottawa, Quebec and Atlantic Canada ( Please reach out to them if you do not already know them. They are also all very active on social media. Thank you for your support and we’re excited to work together in the future.”

Watch for more interviews and memories throughout 2023, marking Travelweek’s 50th anniversary this year. Plus, try your luck with our contest, ‘It Happened This Week’, featuring a new headline (and a new chance to win!) every Wednesday in Travelweek Daily, from Travelweek’s 50 years of travel industry news coverage.

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