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Monday,  July 22, 2024   4:18 PM
PAX Checks In with G Adventures’ David Green
PAX Checks In with David Green, global VP of sales & customer operations and managing director for Canada at G Adventures. Pictured here in the British Virgin Islands. (Supplied)

David Green believes he was always destined to work in travel.

The proud Scotsman, born in Ayr, Scotland, moved to London, England in his twenties and then moved to Australia in his thirties where he lived in Melbourne and Sydney, eventually obtaining his Australian citizenship.

When he entered his forties, Green moved to Toronto to work for tour operator G Adventures.

“Which had been a dream of mine for years,” says Green, who hopes to earn his Canadian citizenship next year.

For five years now, Green has worked at G Adventures’ “basecamp” headquarters in downtown Toronto, and as global vice-president of sales and customer operations and managing director for Canada, he wears many hats.

David Green is global VP of sales & customer operations and managing director for Canada at G Adventures. (G Adventures)

“I don’t have a typical day, which I enjoy,” Green says. “I’ve always welcomed a challenge and I like the variety in my role. If I’m wearing my VP of sales and customer operations hat, I might be involved in sales (global contact centre strategy or outside GPS – global purpose specialist – sales strategy). I could be working on commercial strategy or I might be with the customer insight teams looking at our net promoter scores. Or with the air team looking at air contracts.”

“If I’m wearing my managing director for Canada hat, then I’m almost definitely involved in agency/partner head office meetings and supporting our incredible Canadian sales team.”

What does he love about his job? 

“The people,” he says. “I come from the travel agency side, so I’m a huge advocate for agents, as they work so hard. Our industry is evolving, however, and we have a big responsibility to travel better. I love talking to people about how we can use travel as a force for good.”

From left: Beverley Edgar, The Travel Agent Next Door; Gonca Oztan, Chief Experience Officer, G Adventures; David Green, managing director for Canada/VP of global & customer operations, G Adventures; Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears explore Istanbul's bustling Egyptian Bazaar. (Pax Global Media)

But this driven multitasker – who is also now vice chair of the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) – didn’t always work in the travel biz. 

Previously, Green worked in retail at Virgin Megastores, where he was a central operations manager.

“I’ve always enjoyed working in the service industry, and in particular, within businesses that I have an interest in,” he tells PAX.

While at Virgin, he oversaw communications, operations, and retail support across more than 300 stores and was part of the senior leadership team.

“Yes, I’ve met Richard Branson – a few times,” Green says.

And yes, Green has also met a ton of celebrities at signings and concerts.

“All my fanboy crushes that I met were mostly U.K. bands like Paul Weller, Black Grape, Goldfrapp, Glasvegas and George Michael,” Green says. “I have plenty of good stories to tell.”

Here, PAX checks in with Green to talk about the time he forgot his passport and work visa in a hotel safe, his run-in with a tarantula in Cambodia and the travel industry’s biggest challenge.

PAX: When and how did you get into the travel industry? 

David Green (DG): I fell into travel in 2008 and I’ve never looked back. I joined a company called STA Travel in the U.K, which specialized in student and youth travel. It was the world's largest youth operator, and had been around for more than 40 years, but went into administration during the pandemic. I started on a maternity cover role and within my first year I was promoted to sales and marketing director for the U.K. and Nordics. In 2011, I was promoted to managing director in Australia and joined their global executive team. G Adventures was their biggest land partner!

David Green at the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. (Supplied)

PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with? 

DG: Aftershave (I like to smell nice. Le Labo Santal 33, thanks for asking); a G Adventures core values t-shirt (I’m always looking for a better mugshot); my iPhone to capture all my travel memories.

I also believe things happen for a reason. For example: the baggage handling issues at airports have forced me to travel everywhere with carry-on luggage. Do you know how hard that is for a gay guy to do? I’ve had to get better at packing less and make tough footwear choices.

PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?

DG: Singapore Changi Airport has everything and more. It’s a great place for a stopover, and the falling rain water show in the Jewel complex is so special. I also love Singapore as a destination.

David on an adventure in Jordan. (Supplied)

PAX: What was the first trip you ever took? 

DG: I had lots of great family holidays as a kid, but as a 17 year old, I started running my own organized ski group trips in Scotland with a local tour company. As a kid, I was very entrepreneurial and had lots of little businesses. But I look back on those ski trips and realize now what an impact it had on my work now. Who would have thought back then I’d be organizing group travel, just on a much bigger scale? When I read our founder Bruce Poon Tip’s book, Looptail, I laughed at his antics as a young entrepreneur as that was totally me. It’s fair to say I’m no Bruce Poon Tip, but it’s probably one of the reasons we get along so well.

David visits Hạ Long Bay in Vietnam. (Supplied)

PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip? 

DG: The time my partner and I left both our passports and Canadian work visas in a hotel safe in London. We thought we had lost them, so we cancelled four passports, made trips to the Australian embassy, renewed four passports, cancelled our original flights, spent another week in London (which obviously included four more West End shows), and then we had a call from the hotel to tell us they found all our stuff in a safe. Moral of the story (other than having good travel insurance) is everything happens for a reason. And we did see some really good theatre that week!

PAX: What’s the most memorable meal you ever ate while travelling? 

DG: Oh this is an easy one! It was on a G Adventures trip to Cambodia and the CEO (chief experience officer, or tour guide) decided it would be funny to have a real live tarantula underneath a silver dinner server platter. When he lifted the lid, the spider came towards me and I ran a mile. I did try fried tarantula though and it's fair to say I prefer them dead rather than alive.

David eating a tarantula in the New Hope Planeterra project in Siem Reap, Cambodia. (Supplied)

PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?

DG: Airport security and standing behind people who can’t organize themselves properly. Actually, airport check-in, boarding the plane, and the build-up to getting on the plane can be a drama. There are signs everywhere telling people what to do, but somehow there are always delays. When you read this, know that my eyes are rolling to the back of my head thinking about this scenario.

PAX: What is your funniest travel anecdote? 

DG: The time I saved Michael from PAX News from drowning on a G Adventures trip in Turkey. (See video evidence here).

PAX: When flying, do you recline your seat or stay upright?

DG: Depends if I’m flying up the front or down the back! If I’m in the back, which is normal, then I try to stay upright until the person in front of me reclines their seat and then the whole plane pretty much plays seat dominoes.

David meets a penguin in Antarctica. (Supplied)

PAX: What do you consider your greatest achievement in recent years? 

DG: Surviving a global pandemic. I’m joking, but I’m serious about that. It’s been hard, but I’m immensely proud about getting through the past couple of years. But what I’m most proud of is seeing some great talent flourish around me – not just in G Adventures, but with partners we work closely with. There has been a lot of change, but most people – and businesses – have grown and evolved to get through to the other side. The plan now is to not just survive, but to thrive.

PAX: What is your motto? 

DG: #BELIEVE. I’m a huge Ted Lasso fan. I believe that if you put positive energy out there, it comes back to you. I believe it's better to surround yourself with people who are happy, and to do your best to help others whenever you can.

David meets actor Jason Sudeikis (far left) during the filming of season 3 of Ted Lasso in the U.K. (Supplied)

PAX: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

DG: Travelling. I know that’s maybe a bit corny given that I work in travel, but I’m totally blessed to be doing a job that I love, in an industry that I love, surrounded by the most talented people. At G Adventures we “Love Changing People’s Lives” and I live and breathe by that because I genuinely believe that G Adventures has changed my life.

PAX: What is your biggest fear?

DG: Sharks, snakes and spiders. Moving to Canada from Australia was an easier choice than most people realize for me.

David Green in Japan during his first-ever G Adventures trip. (Supplied)

PAX: Who is your favourite singer or band? 

DG: The Killers – Brandon Flowers. But anyone who knows me would know that this question should really be what's your favourite musical? And the answer is &Juliet. Why? Because it's uplifting, delivers strong messages about female empowerment, diversity and inclusion – all areas that I care about – and it's full of great music from Britney Spears, Katy Perry and the Backstreet Boys.

David and his partner SiuWan in the front row at &Juliet. They saw the musical 18 times in 2022! (Supplied)

PAX: What are your hidden talents? 

DG: Let’s play two truths and a lie and the readers can guess which is true!

I play the bagpipes for a hobby; I believe that I have lucky “winning” pants that I wear to Raptors games; I can make a decent cocktail – Tom Cruise has nothing on me.

PAX: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your outlook on life and the way you work?

DG: I’ve yet to stop and slow down since the pandemic to really think about this question. Life is just so busy. In my role at G during COVID, I was in the thick of everything, whether that was working on our policies and procedures, making commercial recommendations with others in the business, or making decisions that would ultimately help determine how and when we would rebound. I’ve always believed we should “Do the Right Thing,” which is one of our core values.

David Green photographed in Hong Kong. (Supplied)

As I said, I come from a travel agency background, so I made sure my voice was loud and clear in making sure we supported our travel agents during the pandemic, and I honestly believe our agency partners will remember us for that. Being transparent, honest and thoughtful are qualities that I know will always help me in doing business, both pre and post-pandemic.

PAX: What is the biggest challenge facing the travel industry today? 

DG: That we don’t learn from the past. During the pandemic, we all had to stand still because we had no option. We learned to be grateful for what we have, we showed compassion for one another, and we took time to take care of ourselves and our family and friends. As travel professionals, we have a role to play in helping people travel responsibly. If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out our documentary, The Last Tourist, to learn more.

David Green visits Wadi Rum in Jordan. (Supplied)

PAX: What do you think this year’s top travel trend will be? 

DG: I see more travel companies promoting smaller groups, which is of course what we do at G Adventures. Sustainability is another key trend, which again is what we do, and we can’t let that be forgotten in the place of profitability. When we launched our ‘Ripple Score’ a few years back, Bruce was adamant that it needed to be a name that other travel companies could use. We are replicated (which is a compliment) in so many ways, but other travel companies have yet to publicly say how many dollars spent in destinations stays in destinations, like we do with our Ripple Score.

PAX: What should travel advisors know about G Adventures right now? 

DG: We are back, baby! Guaranteed departures are also back, so if you book a client on a G Adventures trip, then that trip is guaranteed to run. This month we have a two per cent bonus commission for preferred travel agents, as well as our G Dollars incentive programme, which gives agents a chance to earn money for their future trips – on top of their 50 per cent preferred agent discount. More details can be found on our G Adventures Sherpa booking system.

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