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Sunday,  May 26, 2024 11:59 PM 

PAX Checks In with TTC Tour Brands’ Aaron Crawford

PAX Checks In with TTC Tour Brands’ Aaron Crawford
PAX Checks In with Aaron Crawford, sales manager for Southwestern and Northern Ontario at TTC Tour Brands, seen here in Australia. (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.

Aaron Crawford’s passion for travel started “in a big way,” as he puts it.

It was 1999, and the London, ON native decided to accept a volunteer teaching role in South India.

“That experience changed the trajectory of my life,” Crawford tells PAX. “It made me realize how travel can change a person.”

But it took another decade until Crawford – who’d built a career working in banking, telecommunications, and project management – made the leap and joined the “go-go world of travel,” professionally.

“I was living in Vancouver at the time,” he says. “I was saving up to buy a house, so I picked up a part-time job as a guest service ambassador with a major airline, in addition to my full-time job, and I never looked back.”

Crawford went on to work and live abroad on cruise ships for a few years before settling back in his hometown of London to be near family and friends.

"I know how blessed I am to work in this industry," says Crawford, seen here in Belize. (Supplied)

It’s a city that also lends itself to his current role as a Southwestern and Northern Ontario sales manager for The Travel Corporation’s Tour Brands (TTC Tour Brands), a portfolio that includes Luxury Gold, Insight Vacations, Trafalgar, Brendan Vacations, Costsaver and Contiki.

“London is at the centre of my sales territory, so being based here makes me more accessible to the areas I support,” Crawford says.

His role at TTC, which commenced in September of 2022, was somewhat of a comeback for Crawford. During the pandemic, he was laid off from his previous employer, forcing him to leave travel (temporarily) and pursue a role in healthcare

“I took it as a call to action to support people during the pandemic,” Crawford says. “I always knew I would come back to the travel industry, but I wanted to make sure my next role was the perfect fit for me. Then I saw a posting to join the TTC team!”

“I have loved every minute of it and I look forward to a long future here.”

Crawford (far right) with his TTC Tour Brands team. (Supplied)

Crawford loves his role “because every day is so different.”

“I get to work with amazing people who are just as passionate about the industry as I am,” he says. “My favourite time is when I’m ‘on the road’ supporting offices and agents in my territory. Fundamentally, I believe my role as a BDM/DSM is to help my agency partners be the best they can be and be their champion whenever they need me.”

The team and culture at The Travel Corporation also stands out. 

“My love for the industry has only grown over the years – the people, passion, growth, and change – and the fact that I play a big role in making our guests’ dreams come true!” he says. “I have had some amazing experiences and have met a lot of wonderful people. I know how blessed I am to work in this industry. I never take it for granted.”

Here, PAX Checks In with Crawford to discuss dreamy adventures in India, his issue with “Instagram travel,” and why more travellers are seeking experiences that matter.

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

Aaron Crawford (AC): The best quality carry-on luggage I can afford, packing cubes and my Bose noise-cancelling headphones! 

PAX: What’s your favourite airport and why?

AC: I enjoy all of them in their own way. They are by far the best places to people watch. The two that I was most impressed by architecturally were BMO in Mumbai, India and RAK in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Crawford spotted at CocoCay in the Bahamas. (Supplied)

PAX: What was the first trip you ever took? 

AC: I can’t just pick one because I really have two. Like many kids who grew up in Southwestern Ontario, our family did the annual drive to Florida to see our grandparents. Every year, we packed in the back of the car in the middle of the night with snacks for the non-stop road trip. But my first solo trip was a big one. I volunteered to teach in Kerala, India circa 1999. This trip sparked a real passion for immersive and experiential travel. I’ve returned to India many times since and have spent over a year exploring the country. That amount of time allowed me to have countless magical experiences. India is like a dream. Anything is possible there.   

Crawford on a camel trek in India, circa 1999. (Supplied)

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

AC: I one hundred per cent believe any trip is the time to spurge on whatever is important to you. I am all about valet parking, upgraded air seats, lounge passes, private transfers, and upgraded hotels…etc. I want to create an experience that is so memorable, I’ll be talking about it for years to come. My stay at Palace La Mamounia in Marrakech stands out. So does spending $1,500 for one night in Greenland midway through a three-week trip around Iceland. That was certainly a huge splurge. And worth every penny!

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

AC: Easily, the Indian meal cooked by my guides in the Thar Desert during a two-day camel trek out of Jaisalmer, India.

Crawford explores Japan. (Supplied)

PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?

AC: Oh wow, I have a few! People who take off their shoes and socks on the plane (that’s not only water on the floor in the lavatory!) and people also who ‘Instagram travel’ just for the photo and don’t take the time to experience the actual world behind their phone.

PAX: What is your funniest travel anecdote?

AC: Probably the time (early in my career) when I booked standby flights for my partner and I to Varadero, Cuba and a hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica – true story! What can I say? Always use a travel agent!

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

AC: I would rather do a month of luxury! I could imagine spending a month in Ireland and Scotland staying in places like Ashford Castle or a month in a luxury ashram in India. Spending a month with Uniworld sounds amazing to me. Wait, who’s paying for it!?

“My love for the industry has only grown over the years," says Crawford. (Supplied)

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

AC: I imagine my answer, before the pandemic, would have been a lot different. Now, I’d say not just surviving these last few years, but thriving. I changed careers, reminded myself that I loved travel and needed to get back into the industry. I bought a house, reconnected with friends, and let other friends go.

PAX: What is your motto?  

AC: “Ponder not what you see but why you see it” – J.Krishnamurti. I remind myself of this often, especially when I travel.   

Crawford filming a segment on board Allure of the Seas during his cruise ship days. (Supplied)

PAX: What is your idea of perfect happiness?  

AC: Of all the questions you’ve asked, I thought about this question the longest. I wanted to say ‘when I was travelling,’ but in truth, I think happiness for me is waking up knowing that I have the tools to deal with life and change. Happiness has been found in becoming comfortable with the knowledge that I won’t be happy all the time and that’s okay. It’s about the small wins, the day-to-day moments of joy that are all around me when I’m open to having it. Happiness is unexpected and involves laughter. A kind gesture from a stranger. 

PAX: What is your biggest fear?  

AC: Another great question. Being misunderstood. And not being present when people give me their time.

PAX: Who is your favourite singer or band?  

AC: I am all over the place with my musical tastes, but I’d start with Dolly Parton – huge fan!  Eva Cassady, Nina Simone, Madonna, The 1975, Tori Amos and BB King.

PAX: What are your hidden talents?

AC: I am a master packer and can travel almost anywhere with just a carry-on!

Crawford, seen here in Puerto Vallarta, can travel almost anywhere with just a carry-on. (Supplied)

PAX: How has the pandemic changed your outlook on life and the way you do business?

AC: I am not sure if I changed a lot, or if the pandemic just brought out what I already knew but wasn’t focusing on. I am an eternal optimist – but it wasn’t easy over the last few years.  I’ve reduced my attention on the news, choosing to focus more locally.  At work, I am far more aware of time and how busy everyone is. I want to ensure I am adding value in ways that are important to the individual agent.

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

AC: I feel strongly that the biggest challenge is climate change. Where, when, and how we travel will continue to change. That’s why it’s important to ensure we’re supporting sustainable travel and organizations like The TreadRight Foundation.

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

AC: We’re already seeing it and it’s only going to grow – experience-based travel. Travellers, me included, want to dive into an incredible variety of immersive experiences, meet fascinating people and step into their lives. See and celebrate the local culture while not having a negative impact.  This is why I am such a fan of The Travel Corporation’s MAKE TRAVEL MATTER moments.

Crawford photographed in Málaga, Spain. (Supplied)

PAX: What should travel advisors know right now about TTC Tour Brands?

AC: Don’t sell from your own wallet. Selling is a transfer of confidence.  When the agent/salesperson is focused on the cost, then the decision will be based on cost. When they’re focused on presenting the available options to meet their needs, then the focus is on the suitability of the experience for the individual.  Cost only becomes an issue when the value hasn’t been proven.

We also have five dedicated sales managers across Canada, representing all six tour brands, with an enormous amount of industry experience, who are here to help you grow your business! We know you have a lot of choice out there, but with TTC Tour Brands, your clients are not just buying a trip, they are signing up for an experience of a lifetime.

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