Ian Kalinowsky | The Great Canadian Travel Co. - Part 2


January 4, 2022 | Pearl McCallum

Coming to the end of 2021, another difficult year for travel, I think back over my time in the industry.  More than 20 years ago I went to college to become a travel agent because, well, I loved to travel.  The job was presented as hard work for little pay; …

December 10, 2021 | Lois Farley

Republishing this blog from 2020 with the revision to include that 2021 was similar to 2020 but was more of a “Stink, Stank, Stuck” kind of year! It seemed like a lot of the year we were spinning our wheels, stuck in a rut of continuing restrictions, lifting of restrictions, …

November 10, 2021 | Lois Farley

This Remembrance Day we’d like to honour members of our own families and friends who have served during war time and in regular military service.


A Note from our President, 20 May 2020

May 20, 2020 | Ian Kalinowsky

Dear clients,

We’re past the 2-month mark of the COVID-19 pandemic and things here in our part of the world are beginning to look very positive and hopeful. We know there’s a long way to go before our world opens up fully. But, little by little, we’ll get there.

Our staff continues to be here for our clients, supporting them and guiding them through a myriad of rebooking and rescheduling options and, in some cases, refunds. New bookings are being made for travel in late 2020, in 2021 and even into 2022. Yes, we will travel again!

Most of our clients, and the majority of clients of travel companies around the world, realize that these are unprecedented times and that we find ourselves in a situation none of us could possibly have foreseen. They understand that policies are constantly changing, are not consistent from supplier to supplier, even differing from country to country with the same supplier. And they are aware that our industry has been almost decimated by the global shutdown.

Unfortunately, not all people are understanding of the difficult situation faced by agencies, travel and tourism suppliers.  The debate rages on about whether a travel credit versus a refund is fair compensation during these unique times. Those who argue for refunds either don’t consider, or simply don’t care, that their demands could well push a business into bankruptcy. Read More >

A Note from our President, 13 May 2020

May 13, 2020 | Ian Kalinowsky

Dear clients,

The last few weeks have been unusual, there’s no doubt about it!

The travel industry, in general, all but shut down within a matter of days. But, the work for our travel business didn’t disappear, as we had clients who we needed to help get home. And there were lots of future trips to be rescheduled or cancelled. Difficult decisions had to be made as to staffing levels and, after discussions with each staff member individually by phone, many were temporarily laid off. During that time we kept in touch through weekly updates about what was happening in our offices in Winnipeg and Edmonton; news from our suppliers and the status of various government programs. I shared as much information as I possibly could, to keep all of our team members “in the loop”.

My staff members, those who were still working and those who were laid off, continued to communicate with one another, to share information about files or news, or just to say “Hi, thinking of you”. It was heartwarming to see the comradery between colleagues during a tough time.

Read More >

A Note from our President, 06 May 2020

May 06, 2020 | Ian Kalinowsky

Dear clients,

Two months – a new vocabulary – a new way of living and relating to people around us – eternal hope that sometime “our new normal” will be restored to something resembling our “old normal.” This week there appeared to be a small light at the end of the tunnel as businesses in Manitoba, Canada and other places around the world started to open back up. “Slowly and cautiously” will be the mantra to ensure that the “second wave” of the virus does not cause us all to have to revert to complete isolation once again.

Two months is a long time to be away from each other at the office. Two months is a long time to be away from our clients. But as I walked to work this morning, listening to the birds just starting the day and observing the sky change colours in the pre-dawn, my thoughts were not on despair but on gratitude.

Today is National Travel Agent Day and it formally gives me the reason to pause and say to our travel consultants, “Thank you for your outstanding work! Thank you for Creating the Best Days Ever for our clients. Thank you for your caring, your professionalism, your knowledge and your expertise.”

Read More >

A Note from our President, 29 April 2020

April 29, 2020 | Ian Kalinowsky

Dear clients,

Gratitude for my gutters and eaves

It had been about 70 days since I last had a day off work. A big work project, then our busy travel season started and then – boom – Covid-19! Like so many business people I am fighting for survival. I plan. I try to figure out the next government relief program and I try to deal with our hundreds of suppliers from all over the world who are all facing difficulties.

Our consultants are still busy re- arranging credits, refunds and doing re-bookings from thousands of trips. Clients continue to praise the diligent efforts of our staff and I can honestly say that some of the comments bring tears to our eyes. I am so very grateful that the efforts of our staff are recognized by you, our clients, and I thank you for taking the time to send your feedback to us.

I haven’t slept a lot in the last 50 days, worrying about things. But, my 28 year-old son who is living with us said, “Dad let’s go and replace those leaking eaves on the house.” Reluctantly I agreed. Read More >

A Note from our President, 16 April 2020

April 16, 2020 | Ian Kalinowsky

Dear clients,

“We believe in the power of travel. It connects business partners, families and friends. Travel also allows us to broaden our horizons and to open our minds to new cultures and countries. We believe in helping you Create your best Days Ever! and for many of our clients that would involve an experience created from some travel that they took.

This was the opening paragraph of my last letter to you and I wanted to repeat it for the following reason: It is missing something or rather someone. It does not emphasize enough the travel consultants that are here to help you. Over the past 5 weeks, when the travel world simply stopped, a group of people did not stop. Tirelessly they assisted clients trying to get home, then process refunds and credits from suppliers whose rules and procedures were changing on a daily basis. This group of people continued to provide outstanding service even after they and the entire global industry was laid off. As countless testimonials received indicate this service by our Travel Consultants was not only provided to our clients but to ANYONE that phoned, emailed or otherwise contacted us.

It was heartwarming and extremely inspiring to receive so much positive feedback from those we helped in some of the worst days in travel.  Here are just a couple of the messages we received:

  • The dedication and charity that you and your staff are showing is astounding, Ian. I will never forget it and will retell it many times.
  • I would like to commend Martha Banias for the amazing assistance she provided me in getting my son Kevin home from France just before the flights ended. She went above and beyond the call of duty and was a real angel of mercy. (This client’s son had booked his flights “online” and couldn’t receive any assistance from the online company)

Read More >

The Perils of Dealing with Online Travel Companies

April 16, 2020 | Ian Kalinowsky

Faceless, online electronic booking systems proved during the current COVID-19 crisis just how much they care about their “customers”. Expedia, the largest online travel agency in the world, proved just how much it cares about its clients. The hundreds of thousands of complaints, the high level of frustration being unable to even get through to their call centers and the start of class action lawsuits all point to a company that was unable to provide a service to their clients. They can handle huge amounts of automated bookings, but when it comes time to handle customer service issues, their systems totally fall apart and fail. And who pays the price for that failure? Their “clients”.

As a small business operating out of brick and mortar offices in Winnipeg and Edmonton, Canada, our clients know who we are, they know where to find us, they know they can get in touch with us, they know who they’re entrusting their travel plans to.

When you book online, do you really know who you’re buying from?

For interest sake, let’s take a look at the world’s Online Travel Agencies or travel booking engines that so many travellers use. Essentially there are only two: Expedia Group (running under 23 different brands) and BookingHoldings (previously PriceLine, running under the brands of Bookings.com, Priceline, Kayak, Open Table and Agoda). These two giants combined control 82% of the world’s online bookings!

Read More >

A Note from our President, 01 April 2020

April 01, 2020 | Ian Kalinowsky

Dear clients,

We believe in the power of travel. It connects business partners, families and friends. Travel also allows us to broaden our horizons and to open our minds to new cultures and countries. We believe in helping you Create Your Best Days Ever! and for many of our clients we know that involves travel experiences.

Temporarily, the global travel industry, the largest industry on the planet, has abruptly ceased to be able to assist you with your travel needs. As the safety and well-being of our partners and employees are of highest priority, we have taken the necessary steps to protect our colleagues, while also ensuring, to the best of our ability, no disruption to the services you need. Though having to temporarily lay off the bulk of our staff they have continued to assist our clients return from Africa, Poland, Asia and the Antarctic. They have worked tirelessly, with rules and procedures that are still changing every day. It is a tribute to the professionalism of our travel consultants and their dedication of service to you, our clients.

We continue to have a small staff working in the office and from home. The remainder will be returning when the governments allow us to come back.  We ask for your patience in these unprecedented times.

Read More >

Ian’s Best Days Ever!

November 12, 2019 | Ian Kalinowsky

Iceland Scuba Diving – one of my Best Days Ever!

I am a Scuba Diver. I have dived hundreds of times in Mexico, Roatan, Belize, Cuba, Thailand and Canada. But, my single best dive was at the Silfra Dive site in Iceland with my eldest son David.

  Silfra is a fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Thingvellir National Park. It was formed by earthquakes in 1789 when the tectonic plates tore the earth apart and created this fissure. It is a “living” dive site in that the continents drift apart at a rate of 2cm per year. Silfra is the only place in the world where you can dive (or snorkel) directly in a crack between two continents.

The Silfra fissure cut into the underground spring and filled with glacial melt-water from the nearby Langjökull glacier. The water is filtered through porous underground lava for 30-100 years before reaching the spring that feeds into Silfra. The water is therefore extremely pure by the time it reaches the north end of Thingvellir lake and it allows for underwater visibility of over 100 meters in Silfra. For reference good visibility in the ocean is about 100 feet (33 meters). The underwater visibility of the water in Silfra will rarely, if ever, be surpassed. Silfra is said to have the clearest water in the world. Read More >

Never Setting Sun, Summer Solstice in Naujaat (Nunavut)

June 24, 2019 | Ian Kalinowsky

  Ian & Margot in front of Arctic Circle Marker, Naujaat

I was escorting a group of clients to venture out to the Floe Edge in the community of Naujaat, Nunavut (formerly Repulse Bay and translated as “seagull nesting place”) and to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day on the summer solstice – June 21, 2018. It was a very special place to be on this particular day, in that Naujaat is located exactly on the Arctic Circle. Read More >

Okavango Delta, Botswana

August 20, 2018 | Ian Kalinowsky

It is a little unusual to say, “I am really looking forward to going on a wet African Safari.” Most people wonder why you would want to go and sit in the rain. But a ‘wet safari’ is the experience offered in the

Okavango Delta of Botswana and the camps that I had the privilege of staying at in March 2017. Read More >