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Friday,  July 19, 2024 5:43 PM 

PAX Checks In with Transat’s Sherri Bourne

PAX Checks In with Transat’s Sherri Bourne
Sherri Bourne, an account manager at Transat, seen here in Porto, Portugal. (Supplied).
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Sherri Bourne earned her college diploma in travel and tourism in the mid-nineties.

But it wasn’t until the bright-eyed graduate from Carbonear, Newfoundland moved to England in 1997 to work as a nanny for a family that she started banking some real-life career experience.

“The family ironically owned a tour company,” Bourne tells PAX. “That turned into me not only working as a Nanny, but also assisting with brochure creation and travelling with the family.”

After travelling on her own through Europe for a while, it became clear to Bourne that the travel industry was something she had to be part of.

“My enthusiasm for travelling, and experiencing as much of the world was possible, became my greatest passion,” says Bourne, who currently lives in Halifax, N.S.

When her adventure abroad concluded, Bourne returned to Canada and began working as a travel consultant.

Sherri, seen here in Scotland. (Supplied)

Most of her career was spent working at Sears Travel – for 15 years, in fact – in St. Johns N.L.

Then, in 2015, she took the plunge and transitioned over to the product side of the industry – “a decision, eight years later, I do not regret,” Bourne says.

For the past five years, Bourne has been an account manager for Transat.

It’s a supportive role that allows her to work closely with travel agents and help them grow their relationship with Transat through marketing collaborations, consumer events, trainings and FAM trips.

“My career in this awesome-crazy-at-times industry has been as rewarding as it has been challenging at times,” Bourne says. “I think most people would describe me as a people person, and that is something I enjoy the most, both in my years as a travel consultant and as a BDM on the product side.”  

“The people I have gotten to know, work with and learn from has shaped me into the person I am today and helps me navigate my current role with Transat.”

Of course, travelling is “always a fun part of the job,” Bourne explains.

“But what I love most is getting to meet so many people from coast to coast, and around the globe, and building relationships," she says. 

Sherri (second from left) with her colleagues at Transat. (Supplied)

The “most rewarding” aspect, she says, is seeing consultants and agencies achieve sales growth. 

“To me, this demonstrates their confidence in the Transat brand and products,” says Bourne. “I really enjoy interacting with consumers and agents, sharing product knowledge and personal travel experiences, with the hopes of inspiring others to take that trip!”

Here, PAX Checks In with Bourne to discuss Gordon Ramsay, a recent 200-kilometre hike on the Camino, and the importance of packing patience, empathy and kindness.

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

Sherri Bourne (SB): Scarf for the plane because I’m likely to get cold no matter the season, candy (I have a major sweet tooth) and a reusable water bottle.

PAX: What is your favourite airport?

SB: I have two favorite airports – St. John’s N.L. (YYT) and Halifax, N.S. (YHZ) because no matter where my travels take me, the best part is coming home to such beautiful provinces. I always feel so blessed touching down in both cities!

PAX: What was the first trip you ever took?

SB: School trip to Boston in grade 12. First plane ride, first time exploring a big city. It was an eyes-wide-open experience. There was so much to see. It was a big change from Carbonear, N.L. and my highlight was seeing the Boston ballet.

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

SB: I am a bit of a foodie and a huge fan of Gordon Ramsay and Hell’s Kitchen, so most splurges are on meals when I travel. One that was very memorable was Gordon Ramsay Steak in Vegas for my 36th birthday. It had just opened that year and was the feature restaurant that season of Hell’s Kitchen. The highlight was trying all of Gordon Ramsay’s signature dishes – right down to the sticky toffee pudding. It was an outstanding experience and so worth the spend!

PAX: What's the most memorable meal you've ever had while travelling?

SB: I travelled to Cambodia and Vietnam with my Dad for my 40th birthday, and that adventure was filled with so many great eats, but the one that is most memorable was a street food tour where we had the opportunity to ride on motorbikes with university students throughout Ho Chi Minh city, stopping to dine with locals, enjoying everything from a traditional Vietnamese bbq, pho and banh khot, to so many amazing stops and authentic experiences. My Dad’s palate is a tad more adventurous than mine. I left all the bug eating to him. From crickets to fried tarantulas, he tried them all. I lived vicariously.

Sherri explored Cambodia and Vietnam with her Dad for her 40th birthday. (Supplied)

PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?

SB: Passengers jamming the aisle as soon as the seat belt sign is turned off. I always think to myself, where do they think they're going?

PAX: What is your funniest travel anecdote?

SB: On a trip to Peru, many years ago, I was walking through a hillside village and I turned a corner to see the sweetest but saddest little face I’ve ever seen on a child. This little boy, in his traditional Peruvian hat and a Mickey Mouse sweater, leaning on a wall, hand under his chin. He looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, so I walked over to him and couldn’t get a smile. He didn’t understand what I was saying, so I took my knapsack off, opened it, and I immediately peaked his curiosity. As I mentioned, I have a sweet tooth and travel with lots of candy. He looked inside and saw the loot of sweets. I will never forget that moment, that smile, and he took me by the hand and started walking. I think he was going to take me home with him, maybe to make sure he got all the sweets (which he did). That picture has been on my wall for many years and every time I catch a glimpse of his little face, I just smile and laugh. Such a special memory.

Sherri shares a moment (and candy) with a young boy in Peru. (Supplied)

PAX: Would you travel for a month in luxury or for a year on a budget?

SB: Without a doubt, luxury for a month! After spending much of my youth travelling on a budget, I've reached the age of ‘I've earned it.’ I want the comfort of extra legroom, elevated inclusions, exceptional experiences, and hotel rooms I could live in. In recent years, there have been two trips that have been outstanding experiences. The first is Africa. We travelled throughout many regions, but the highlight was our time on Safari in Kapama. It was magical. The second experience was true luxury, staying for a week at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. As a foodie, I was in heaven. There were so many delicious experiences and the resort, spa and rooms are absolutely stunning. They take all-inclusive luxury to a new level!

Sherri encounters elephants in South Africa. (Supplied)

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

SB: I recently returned from Spain and Portugal where I travelled the Camino de Santiago, walking over 200 kilometres of the Camino trail, also known as the "The way of St. James" pilgrimage, this was a bucket list adventure that did not disappoint.

PAX: What is your motto? 

SB: #whatareyouwaitingfor. What are you waiting for? Life is for living. Take the trip, drink the wine, eat the chocolate!

PAX: What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

SB: Time spent at home in Carbonear, N.L., in the backyard of my family home where I grew up, with a fire burning, and a cold beer or glass of wine in hand, breathing in that saltwater air. That’s my true happiness.

PAX: What is your biggest fear? 

SB: June bugs terrify me! I don't know what it is about them, but I dread their return every year!

Sherri explores the Camino de Santiago. (Supplied)

PAX: Who is your favourite singer or band? 

SB: There's a few. I've been a Journey fan forever. "Don't stop believing" is my ring tone. For country, Luke Combs and for current pop/rock, Ed Sheeran!

PAX: What are your hidden talents?

SB: If you ask my eight-year-old niece, she would say a silly cake baker. I love to cook, especially when I can fill a table and feed friends. Family comfort food is what I do best (or that's what my friends would probably say). Especially a traditional Sunday dinner –  just how my Newfie Mama Grace taught me.

PAX: How has the pandemic changed your outlook on life?

SB: I have a newfound perspective on life, mainly realizing how quickly it can change. Sometimes things happen that you have no control over. Change what you can, don't stress over what you can’t control, spend time with the ones that mean the most to you and don't take that time for granted. Coming back to work after some time away, I quickly realized the importance of self-care, physically and mentally, and most of all, working at maintaining a healthy work-life balance. This has instilled a greater sense of awareness and productivity.

PAX: What is the biggest challenge facing the travel industry right now?

SB: Demand versus product availability may be viewed as a challenge.  As we venture into a post-pandemic world, the travel industry, as a whole, is seeing record numbers of passengers travelling, with increased demand for luxury, group, and adventure travel. Canadians are travelling more than ever and are booking multiple vacations a year, longer stays and bucket list trips sooner than intended. Everyone in the industry is working hard to keep up with demand. I think the best advice we can share, as travel professionals, is that we all need to pack a little more patience, empathy, and kindness.

Sherri pulls a pint at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, Ireland. (Supplied)

PAX: What are this year’s top travel trends?

SB: Over the last couple years, many travellers opted to book closer to departure. But lately, we see this trend reversing. To ensure you get the vacation you want, you need to book early.  Transat’s annual early booking promo ended June 29 and it was a great success with consumers taking advantage of the savings and additional perks that come with booking early.

PAX: What should travel advisors know about Transat right now?

SB: We were very excited to recently announce that Air Transat is back on top, winning for the fifth time World's Best Leisure Airline at the 2023 Skytrax World Airline Awards. We’re proud to receive this award, which we share with those who place their trust in us year after year.

Transat continues to add seats in Ontario, Quebec and in Atlantic Canada. I am really excited that, for the first time ever, we will start our winter program from Halifax and Moncton in December. Full details are available on Transat Agent Direct.

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