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Saturday,  April 20, 2024 10:14 PM 

Monday Minute: Stephanie Pichler of Independent by Flight Centre

  • Agency
  •   03-04-2024  11:07 am
  •   Pax Global Media

Monday Minute: Stephanie Pichler of Independent by Flight Centre
Travel advisor Stephanie Pichler, seen here in Sedona, Arizona on a Pink Jeep Tour. (Supplied)
Pax Global Media

The Monday Minute is a regular 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: Stephanie Pichler of Independent by Flight Centre (@tunedintotravel on Instagram)

Where do you live? Toronto, ON

How long have you been a travel advisor? 18 exhilarating years!

What is your specialty?

Being a travel advisor for many years has allowed me the opportunity to book a wide range of destinations and trip styles. Since becoming an independent advisor, my focus has been on customized luxury itineraries, upscale all-inclusive packages, corporate travel and city breaks.

What inspired you to become a travel advisor?

Many years ago, I was at the point in my career where I was looking to work in a field that was one of my passions and travel was the most practical. I did some research and decided to apply for a travel consultant role at Flight Centre. They were looking for passionate travel experts and I was lucky enough to get the job. Fast forward 18 years later, and I still love the job. Now that I am working as an independent advisor. I love it even more for the flexibility it affords.

What's the first trip you ever took?

When I was 14, my parents asked my sister and I where we wanted to go on a trip – Disney or Colombia? We chose the latter and it was an incredible experience that started me down the path of loving travel, speaking Spanish and discovering new cultures.

What travel trends are you seeing these days?

I would say that a major shift over the last few years is to book early – usually a minimum of six to nine months in advance. Of course, many book trips closer to departure, but clients have realized that they get the best value and options by booking well in advance. Italy is still a very popular destination and Portugal is showing more interest for the value it provides. Cruising is still very popular with many clients wanting larger cabins and more inclusions. As for airfare, clients are looking for upgraded service either in premium economy or business class.

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

Last year, I put together a flawless, personalized itinerary for a family of five to Italy. From start to finish, every aspect of their trip was organized in advance, from the transfers and tours to the hotels, trains and flights. The family travelled first to see the idyllic Lake District, then Milan to view The Last Supper, followed by La Spezia and Cinque Terre, on to breathtaking Portofino, followed by a few nights each in Capri, Positano and Rome. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to piece it all together. It was complicated and challenging to put together, but in the end, the family had their trip of a lifetime!

What's the most memorable trip you ever took?

I think the most memorable trip that I have taken was a G Adventures tour of Peru. It was an incredible experience to hike the Inca Trail, sleep in the clouds and hike to 13,000 feet via Dead Woman's Pass. The highlight was reaching the Sun Gate just in time to see the sun rise above Machu Picchu. It was physically and mentally challenging while allowing me to push the limits of my comfort zone and come away with memories that I still reflect on to this day.

Where do you see your business one year from now?

My independent business has seen significant year-over-year growth since its inception. I see the business continuing to grow based on my repeat and referral business while allowing me to work flexible hours. My goals are to stay relevant in the industry by attending travel events and going on both personal and FAM trips to further my knowledge. Part of that is to visit bucket list destinations like French Polynesia, Africa and Antarctica (a girl can dream!)

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

While it’s not a 'new' skill, I would say it is one that I have honed, which is networking. Over the past year, I have attended many local travel events with the intent of keeping up to date on travel trends while connecting with suppliers and colleagues. It is those connections that can help you in a bind or offer you a FAM trip to build your knowledge of a previously unknown destination.

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

I think airlines need to change their position to be more supportive and appreciative of their travel agency partners, specifically by compensating them for their business.

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

Knowledge and experience are the two pillars that I have built my business on. In the absence of experience, you can always learn and grow your knowledge on a product or destination by doing research and connecting with tour operators and tourism boards. You can also gain destination knowledge by asking for feedback from clients upon their return ("Welcome Home" calls anyone?). Over time, you will develop a confidence that comes through to clients who will trust that your advice is as good as gold!

What is your motto?

Live each day to the fullest. 

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

Be resourceful! Think outside the box to create epic itineraries that wow your clients and save them time and money.

Where are you travelling next?

2024 is the year of travel! I recently returned from one of my favourite destinations – Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, Mexico. Next up, I have a family trip to the Riviera Maya and Mahahual, followed by a conference in South America and Disneyworld in September. Hoping to enjoy a cruise as well!

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