Our Blogs – Page 2 – The Great Canadian Travel Co.

STAFF PICKS

July 1, 2020 | Ian Kalinowsky

Happy Canada Day, everyone! Despite the pandemic and unusual times we are going through we are truly blessed to live and work in Canada. I am reminded of this every day, when I watch the news from around the world and see the struggles facing other countries. We have stable …

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June 30, 2020 | GCT Bear

My hometown of Churchill, Manitoba is a Canadian town located on the edge of the Arctic. It still has a distinctive frontier town feel about it and comes to life whenever a new group of visitors arrive. The people that live here are friendly, proud of their hometown and the …

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June 24, 2020 | Margot Kalinowsky

Wop wop wop goes the helicopter blades.  I am sitting next to the pilot in a small 4-seater helicopter ready for take off. Headphones on, buckled in, my heart a pounding!  I calm myself and silently tell myself I can do this!!!!! Within seconds, and with a couple of jerks, we …

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Geothermal Spas in Iceland

May 19, 2020 | Sandra Jensen

When in Iceland of course I had to visit their world famous geothermal spa at The Blue Lagoon. It is a wonderful experience, and very handy to Keflavik airport so easy to visit even if you only have a stopover in Iceland. But, it can be very busy. “Why not try one of the many smaller facilities in Iceland?”, I thought, or even experience one of many public pools, which are also heated with geothermal waters.

 

 

 

 

If you are touring the Golden Circle area on your own on a self-drive, I suggest a visit to The Secret Lagoon near Fludir. It is a natural hot spring with a sandy bottom and constant feeding of fresh thermal waters keeping the pool at 38-40° Celsius year round. The pool’s natural surroundings and steam rising into the air gives the place a magical feeling. 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.

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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.”

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Doorways to Game of Thrones®Country

May 05, 2020 | Lois Farley

Anyone who is a Game of Thrones® fan will know that much of the filming of the blockbuster HBO series took place in Northern Ireland. You can visit many of the locations on excellent guided day tours out of Belfast or multi-day tours, for a more in-depth experience. And many of the guides were actually involved in the filming of the show, so have firsthand knowledge.

One of the filming locations is The Dark Hedges, in the northern part of County Antrim. To those in Westeros it is known as the Kingsroad.  The Dark Hedges was battered by gale force winds during Storm Gertrude in 2016. Unfortunately, a number of the trees whose branches formed the scenic arch over the road, were felled by the winds. Rather than just dispose of the wood the idea came up to use the wood from some of the trees that fell to create intricately carved, wooden doors, each door depicting a story from Game of Thones®, Season 6. Thus, the Journey of Doors was born!

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Travel Brings People Together

April 29, 2020 | Pearl McCallum

As the world continues to follow physical distancing and shelter in place orders and travel remains largely “on pause,” we are reminded of how important it is to connect with one another. Now, more than ever, it’s necessary to help each other overcome isolation through inspiration.

This awesome video from Ensemble, a consortium our agency is a member of, highlights the intrinsic value of travelling and using us, your travel consultants and advisors, to connect to our amazing world.

Travel truly does bring people together. We will travel again! But, in the meantime, we hope you enjoy this short video and that it inspires you to keep dreaming and keep planning your future trips. We’re sure there are lots of Best Days Ever! ahead for us all.

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 >

Shauna’s Best Days Ever!

April 27, 2020 | Shauna Cook

My best day ever started as one of the final days of an Iceland Circumnavigation cruise.  We were set to arrive into Heimaey, Westman Islands for a full day port stop.  The crew made sure to tell us what time to be on deck as pulling into the harbor is one of the highlights of this stop.  They were not wrong.  On approach we see green and rock, and hundreds, possibly thousands of seabirds using the rock for nesting.  An overwhelming feeling of familiarity came over me, and I felt very calm.

      

Prior to this, I had never visited the Westman Islands, however I felt like I was being welcomed home.  Walking around the village felt comfortable and familiar, it was like my feet and my memory knew exactly where to take me. Read More >

Our World

April 26, 2020 | Allison Silvaggio

With the current state of ‘our world,’ we are all finding ways to take care of ourselves, connect with family & friends, and perhaps finding new hobbies to keep our minds occupied.

It’s now been about 5 weeks at home with my husband and two sons (ages 11 & 14).  After their daily school work, one proceeds to complete another puzzle while the other busts out a Bon Jovi song on guitar. I myself have turned to yoga, long walks outside and many good books.

This time at home has also given ample time for ‘spring cleaning’ and de-cluttering.  I spent a good portion of last week going through photo albums while enjoying a wide range of different flavored teas.

We are all aware that these are trying times for the travel industry, however looking through over 20 years of pictures, destinations, memories…..it gives me hope!

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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)

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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!

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