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Saturday,  July 13, 2024 11:47 AM 

Monday Minute: Ajay Karah of PLAN A Travel Solutions

  • Agency
  •   05-27-2024  10:32 am
  •   Pax Global Media

Monday Minute: Ajay Karah of PLAN A Travel Solutions
Calgary, AB-based Ajay Karah of PLAN A Travel Solutions seen here in India. (Supplied)
Pax Global Media

The Monday Minute is a weekly feature in PAX that highlights the movers, shakers, leaders and rule breakers in Canada's travel advisor community. Wanna be profiled? Wanna nominate someone? Email!

Name: Ajay Karah

Business: PLAN A Travel Solutions (part of the Travel Edge Network)

Where do you live? Calgary, AB

How long have you been a travel advisor? 24 years

What is your specialty?

My brand specializes in crafting exclusive and personalized travel arrangements. I curate bookings with top-tier operators for private land arrangements and cruise lines that provide luxurious ocean, expedition, river and yacht cruises, as well as customized rail journeys and unique specialty experiences. I am selective, collaborating only with high-end operators and focusing on ships with a capacity of no more than 500 passengers.

What inspired you to become a travel advisor?

I am passionate about travel, culture, and indulging in exotic cuisine. My insatiable curiosity drives me to learn wherever I go. This same mindset shapes the customized trips I design for my clients. They share my enthusiasm for delving deeper into their destinations, seeking experiences beyond what standard tour packages offer. Inspired by this need, I founded PLAN A Travel Solutions

What’s the first trip you ever took?

Amsterdam for a (wild) weekend (from Vancouver).

What travel trends are you seeing these days?

Discerning travellers seek authenticity, licensed or highly-qualified guides, and boutique accommodations that showcase the rich history and local charm of a region.

The experiences they desire delve deeper into their specific interests. For instance, in the realms of archaeology, cuisine, or history, I have orchestrated exclusive access to archaeological sites, intimate cooking classes with locals, and guided walking tours led by knowledgeable history experts.

Cruises have gained popularity among my older clients due to their convenience—less moving around—and the all-inclusive luxury they offer. On a cruise adventure, you won’t be nickel-and-dimed. Everything is seamlessly included.

Ajay seen here in Thailand. (Supplied)

Of all the bookings you’ve made, which itinerary are you most proud of?

Recently, I meticulously crafted and flawlessly executed a 33-night itinerary spanning Greece, Italy, and the UK. The purpose? To commemorate a couple’s 30th wedding anniversary. I take immense pride in this achievement because every service unfolded seamlessly, creating unforgettable memories for them as they celebrated their life journey together. As the itinerary extends over more days, achieving such perfection becomes increasingly challenging.

What’s the most memorable trip you ever took?

During my four-year tenure as an ESL teacher, the year I spent in Indonesia stands out as a true highlight. Having an extended period in a destination grants you the freedom to wander, explore, and, most importantly, forge connections with the locals. These newfound friends became my guides, revealing the authentic Indonesia—the one beyond tourist brochures. This experience was transformative, opening my eyes to the diverse ways people live across the globe.

Where do you see your business one year from now?

My future growth strategy centres around group travel experiences. I have a deep desire to curate and lead a small group expedition to Antarctica.

What’s one new skill you’ve acquired recently?

Saying no is a crucial skill. Not every inquiry that lands in my inbox aligns with my brand’s ethos—education and personalized experiences. While it might appear that I’m turning away business, I recognize that there’s a limit to the number of trips I can handle annually without compromising on service quality. I owe it to my loyal clients, those who choose to work with me trip after trip, to uphold that standard.

Ajay seen here in Tahiti. (Supplied)

What’s one thing you would change about the travel industry?

The perception of our role often reduces us to mere booking agents. With the proliferation of online booking platforms, clients can arrange many trips independently. However, bridging the gap between this perception and the reality of what a travel professional does is essential.

My expertise lies in crafting intricate and personalized travel experiences. The complexity of my trips sets them apart. Each customized adventure demands a minimum of 100 hours to ensure seamless execution. I don’t see myself as a conventional travel agent. Rather, I embrace the title of a travel planner. This distinction brings forth a unique set of expectations from my clients.

The industry and media need to recognize the distinction between agents and planners—two distinct roles that contribute differently to enhancing travellers’ journeys.

What’s the secret to being successful in this business? 

Authenticity with clients, expertise in your niche, and confidence in your product knowledge are essential qualities to be successful.

What is your motto?

"A goal without a PLAN is just a wish.”

What is your number one piece of advice to other travel advisors?

Understand your brand identity and stick to it.  

Where are you travelling next?

My next trip is to Vancouver to visit my parents. After that, I'm hoping to get to Vietnam or Morocco with my own private groups. 

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