TOURISM MATTERS: Getting a first taste of tourism
WITH A LITTLE MORE TIME on my hands I have been reflecting on my early days in tourism. While in Canada over 40 years ago working for a travel agency, I was tempted by an advertisement that appeared in the British Sunday Times and placed by one of the early pioneers in the European travel industry.
In 1928, the founder of the company, Antonio Mantegazza, bought a small rowboat (on credit) and began transporting visitors across Lake Lugano while sharing stories of local sights along the way. He saw the wonder in the eyes of travellers to his own country, Switzerland, which remains just as true to this day.
Globus Gateway would go on to become a major world player in the escorted European coach holiday sector and later expand to cover destinations across the world.
Returning to the ad, I responded, and was one of hundreds invited to an interview. In my case, it was held in a rather dingy third-floor office on London’s Oxford Street.
The interview seemed to last an eternity, but in reality probably no more than five minutes. Of the questions posed, one asked what earth-shattering event took place in the Middle Ages. By this time I was grasping at straws and simply blurted out, do you mean the renaissance? This seemed to satisfy the interrogator.
Along with about 50 others I was placed in what they called a seven-day “training tour”. Sleep deprivation might have been a better description. Looking back, it is now easy to see the objective – placing selected people under intensive pressure enduring long hours and exposed to incredibly demanding clients. And I do not mean that in a derogatory way at all.
For many people it was the trip of a lifetime. Any good tour director who forgot that for a second was simply not doing their job to the best ability. I always kept the thought that my mother, grandmother or sister could be on that coach and I would want them to have the very best experience possible.
The most popular and best-selling tours were dubbed pyjama or silk pyjama tours. The hectic pace determined whether you wore underwear or clothes, as there would be no time to change. The only difference was the quality of the hotel, whether they were three- or four-star and centrally located.
All the itineraries were designated with codes. Y and YA tours involved the most countries in the least number of days, in most cases 12 countries in 11 days and on one day alone, four separate sovereign states were visited.
By this time I was so convinced that I had not got the job, I returned to Canada. Around two weeks later I received, in those days, a telex, requesting me to collect the documents for T628 in London days later. T was the tour itinerary, 6 the month (June) and 28 the starting day.
It was, frankly, a turning point in my life. After collecting the group of 36 people, mostly Californians, off an overnight flight at Heathrow and spending two nights in London, we flew off to Madrid.
The adventure had begun. Nothing would be exactly the same, ever again.