TORONTO — “It’s been an amazing ride,” is how Gary Rams sums up his travel career to date.
Associated with CrowFoot Travel Solutions in Calgary, the home-based travel agent has been making travel dreams come true for 35 years, first starting out way back in January 1988. As one would imagine, a lot has changed over three decades but Rams’ passion for travel – particularly soft adventure trips – has remained steadfast.
“Even with some stressful days, it is still the best career in the world,” he tells Travelweek. “We get to meet many people in our business and even competitors are friends. We all help each other. We get to meet and become friends with suppliers’ representatives and we can work as independents, however, we never feel like we’re not part of a team.”
It’s this camaraderie within the industry that Rams has valued most, particularly during travel’s biggest challenges like 9/11 and the COVID-19 pandemic. But Rams, ever the optimist, doesn’t waste time dwelling on the low points, focusing instead on the too-many-to-count highlights of his career, which include exploring Egyptian pyramids, strolling through Hoi An, Vietnam, game drives in Africa and discovering small towns in Peru.
“I have been fortunate to travel to many countries around the world over the years. But visiting a country isn’t just about seeing the sights, it’s also about getting to know the people, the one thing I am most proud of,” he says.
“Being a travel agent allows me to meet people from other countries and do business with them. From inbound operators to local tour guides to hotel staff, we’re giving them a means to feed their families, for their children to get an education,” adds Rams.
Throughout his career, Rams has seen firsthand the positive impact travel has had on local communities. “Making a difference is possible and has been done,” he says, recalling how many tour operators changed their stance on elephant rides about 10 years ago. Since then, over 100 travel companies have signed World Animal Protection’s elephant-friendly pledge to stop selling and promoting venues with elephant rides and shows.
“While it may not always appear as if we can change the world and we don’t always get credit, we are capable of making a positive difference,” says Rams.
When asked how he thinks the role of travel agents has changed over the years, Rams says it’s been dependent on the evolution of the travel industry as a whole.
“The industry has changed over time and it continues to improve,” he says. “Our role before 9/11 was more like that of order takers than entrepreneurs. But after 9/11, even brick-and-mortar agents became more important when arranging travel. We became more specialized and keeping up with the changes was important.
“We have been through 9/11, Covid, destination closures, airline strikes and airlines and tour operators going out of business. We have been there and done that.”
As part of Travelweek’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2023, travel advisors across Canada are sharing their industry memories with Travelweek readers. To share your memories, contact Deputy Editor Cindy Sosroutomo at firstname.lastname@example.org.