INTERVIEW: Transat’s Nicole Bursey on what she’s learned about – and from – travel advisors
Nicole Bursey on a Greece fam

INTERVIEW: Transat’s Nicole Bursey on what she’s learned about – and from – travel advisors

TORONTO — For Nicole Bursey, her 25th birthday was about more than just cake and candles – it was also the day she was offered a job that would change her life forever.

The year was 1994 and Bursey, who had long harboured the dream of becoming a game show host, was working as a travel agent at a small agency in Cambridge, Ontario. She attended a product launch for Transat – then known as Air Transat Holidays – where she met the company’s sales director at the time, Diane Pothan, who immediately recognized Bursey’s outgoing personality. Pothan mentioned that Transat was looking for a new sales representative to cover southwestern Ontario, and before long the job was offered to Bursey on the day she turned 25.

She worked at Transat until 2001 before leaving to pursue other opportunities at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and CruiseShipCenter North York. She even enjoyed a brief stint as a “professional” poker player, volunteered at Unicef’s Toronto office and, most notably, had a baby. But her time at Transat never strayed too far from her mind and, in 2009, she returned to the company as Sales Director, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. In 2011, she was promoted to her current role as Commercial Director (Ontario & Atlantic Canada and, eventually, also Western Canada). 

But what about those early dreams of hosting her very own game show? With Bursey’s drive, determination and signature knack for making people feel instantly at ease, one can never rule it out.

In this latest instalment of Travelweek’s Interview series, launched in celebration of our 50th anniversary, we asked Bursey about lessons learned throughout her career and the advice she would give to those just entering the travel industry.

What were those early days at Transat like? 

“We were really building a new brand in Ontario. We concentrated on being accessible to agents and delivering value to travellers. It was a good recipe for success and Transat grew to be such a powerful force in the travel industry. 

“I enjoyed being a sales rep and was eventually promoted to Sales Manager, Atlantic Canada and moved to Halifax for just over a year. Upon moving back to Ontario I was the Business Development Manager and then Director or Reservations. I had the privilege of working on Paul Foster’s team. Paul is a tremendous leader for young managers. We were encouraged to make decisions and we always felt supported by Paul and our colleagues. Even when things didn’t go exactly to plan, Paul would provide advice in the most constructive way. It is import to support young leaders by providing guidance but also by letting them feel free to make decisions.”

INTERVIEW: Transat’s Nicole Bursey on what she’s learned about – and from – travel advisors

1999 ATH sales team

If you were to compare the state of the Canadian travel industry now versus those early days of Transat, how would you say things are better or worse today?

“I don’t spend a lot of time looking back but it feels as though the industry is much more demanding now and external pressures (ie. economics, politics, environmental concerns, etc.) can seem overwhelming. But there is a great sense of community in this industry and there is always someone ready to offer encouragement. Colleagues, clients and competitors become friends and that is one of the truly special things about the travel industry.”

Travel is very much a sociable industry with a close-knit community of professionals. What advice do you have for someone first starting out in the industry who doesn’t necessarily know anyone?

“My advice to anyone starting out is to get out there, attend training sessions and conferences, ask questions, find a mentor if you can. I have spent most of my career on the sales side of things so I naturally think being social is important, but there are many roles within the travel industry.”


INTERVIEW: Transat’s Nicole Bursey on what she’s learned about – and from – travel advisors

Star trek sighting at an industry conference

What have you learned ABOUT travel agents, and what have you learned FROM them?

“I have learned that the majority of travel agents are very customer focused and will work extremely hard to make their clients happy. Travel agents have taught me that no detail is too small and that our communication needs to be clear and complete.”

Throughout your time at Transat, what is the single most important lesson that you’ve learned professionally and personally?

“Professionally, I have learned that you cannot succeed on your own. I value my team and my colleagues very much and I am thankful every day that they are on this journey with me. Personally, I have learned that it is okay to ask for help.”

INTERVIEW: Transat’s Nicole Bursey on what she’s learned about – and from – travel advisors

In the cockpit

Now that travel has returned to normal, what are you most looking forward to in 2023-2024?

“I am excited about the coming year. Under the leadership of Joe Adamo, the commercial team is making plans on how we can engage more with travel agents. Transat has always been very focused on relationships with the retail community, and although we have had some tough years, we are looking to the future and we want to show agents just how much they mean to us.”

INTERVIEW: Transat’s Nicole Bursey on what she’s learned about – and from – travel advisors

Family vacation in Jamaica

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.

Get travel news right to your inbox!