TORONTO — A lot has changed about the travel industry in the last 30 years, but not Zeina Gedeon.
In her 30+ year career, which includes lengthy executive positions with Air Canada, Air Canada Vacations and TravelBrands, the charismatic powerhouse has always been optimistic, personable and loyal to travel advisors.
Now, as President and CEO of Trevello Travel Group, Gedeon is reflecting back on her career and the defining moments of the industry in this latest installment of Travelweek’s 50th anniversary interview series.
Travelweek: How would you sum up the main differences between the Canadian travel industry now versus when you first started out?
Gedeon: “Wow, I’m not sure how to answer that without admitting that I have been in the business for a very long time – over 30 years!
“Since first starting out in 1989, the travel industry has undergone significant changes due to technological advancements, globalization and changing consumer preferences. We have come a long way from writing tickets and manually calculating fares. Now, we can find anything while sitting at our desks. But this doesn’t mean it’s easier – faster definitely, but it’s also brought on many challenges to our industry.
“The Internet has played a huge role in changing the way we work, customer behaviour and knowledge. Social media has become a major influencer in our industry with platforms like Instagram, Facebook and more. I remember the days we used to write in our journal, the ones that were locked by keys to keep the contents hidden. Now, we put everything on social media for everyone to see!”
Travelweek: Besides the pandemic, what events/innovations stand out in your mind as having changed the course of the Canadian travel industry?
Gedeon: “September 11, 2001 is a date I will never forget. I was watching TV, sitting at my desk (back then I was working at Air Canada), looking at the runways and seeing many planes land at YUL. Before 9/11 travel was fun and enjoyable, but afterwards people were hesitant to travel. We saw a major decline in travel with all the significant changes in security measures.
“Something that impacted the industry in a positive way was the introduction of low-cost airlines. They allowed for lower fares, allowing many people to travel who would have otherwise never done so.”
Travelweek: In your opinion, how different would the travel landscape be without travel agents? Can you paint us a picture?
Gedeon: “I don’t think I can paint this picture! If travel agents didn’t exist, the travel landscape would look quite different. Without them, travellers would need to plan and book their travel arrangements entirely on their own, relying on online resources and direct communication with airlines, hotels and other travel providers. This would require travellers to spend more time researching and comparing prices and services, as they would not have the expertise and connections that travel agents provide. As a result, travel planning would be more time consuming and complicated, particularly for those who are not experienced travellers.
“Without travel agents, there would also be fewer personalized travel recommendations and advice available for travellers. Travel agents often have extensive knowledge and experience in the travel industry, which allows them to offer tailored advice and recommendations to their clients. Overall, while it’s possible to book a trip without a travel agent, their absence could result in a less personalized, more time-consuming and potentially stressful experience for travellers.”
Travelweek: What do you find most rewarding about working at Trevello?
Gedeon: “The travel advisors! The opportunity to support our travel advisors is definitely the most rewarding part of my job. They are the heart of our business, and their hard work and dedication never cease to amaze me.
“As independent travel agents, they have to juggle multiple roles, from being travel professionals to accountants, therapist and more! It’s a challenging job but it’s also incredibly rewarding to see the joy they bring to their clients’ lives.
“At Trevello, we believe that our advisors are an extension of our team, and we’re committed to making their lives easier. We’re there to provide support, guidance and resources whenever they need it.”
Travelweek: If you could change one thing about your career in travel, what would it be?
Gedeon: “I would have prioritized sustainable tourism practices more. We all need to encourage a more responsible and ethical approach to travel to ensure that our industry’s growth does not come at the expense of communities and the planet. Our industry has a significant impact on the environment, communities and cultures around the world. Unsustainable tourism practices can lead to environmental degradation, damage to cultural heritage sites, the exploitation of local communities and can have a negative impact on local economies. I believe it is our responsibility to ensure that tourism development benefits local communities and the environment.”
Trevello’s site is Trevello.com. Watch for more interviews and memories in Travelweek Daily throughout 2023, marking Travelweek’s 50th anniversary. Plus, try your luck with our contest, ‘It Happened This Week’, featuring a new headline (and a new chance to win!) every week from Travelweek’s 50 years of travel industry news coverage.