NAME: Tracy Poole
TITLE: Business Development Manager, B.C.
YEARS IN TRAVEL: 32
It's 7:30 a.m. and Tracy Poole is already at her desk, “putting out a fire” – a recurring task that the Vancouver-based TravelBrands British Columbia business development manager (BDM) figures takes up about 75 per cent of her time.
Not that such problems are particular to TravelBrands – Poole has served similar roles at Fun Sun, Huntington, Disney and Cook Island Holiday (as well as 12 years as a travel agent) during her 32-year career in the business – but it’s simply the “nature of the beast,” she says.
However, she’s quick to suggest that she truly considers herself a “collaborator – that’s a great word!” more so than a problem-solver, adding that working with agents to ensure that their clients have the best experience possible is “what a BDM is for.”
Poole is responsible for about 280 accounts in the province and suggests that erroneous information provided by clients is the primary cause of problems for the agents she helps, pointing, for example, to a recent situation in which a couple “didn’t seem to know” their daughter’s middle name or date of birth when booking.
“Did they steal these children?” she wonders. “That can’t be rocket science. The poor agent.”
Yet, while Poole figures that about 99 per cent of the issues she deals with emanate from clients, not agents, she does suggest that the latter sometimes compound situations by not reaching out soon enough. “I’ve always had the attitude: ‘If you don’t ask, we’ll never know,’” she says. “Generally, an agent will come to me when they’ve exhausted their other avenues. Sometimes an agent might think their issue is the biggest catastrophe ever, and it’s actually a super simple fix. I always say, I want to know about it as it happens – I don’t want to walk into your office and have you tell me you had a problem three months ago, but never bothered to get hold of me because you assumed I couldn’t help.”
Nevertheless, she says she relishes the opportunity to take on “files that seem to have stalled” and “more in-depth stuff,” as well as brand training. But she warns, “Don’t use your BDM as a reservations agent – trust me, you do NOT want me making reservations.” And while she says she loves to get face to face with her agents as often as possible, she’s always only an e-mail away.
Count Samantha Kailley of Celebration Travel in White Rock, B.C. among those who are impressed by Poole. “She is the only BDM I know of that will jump onto their Facebook and answer questions from her hospital bed (yes she did that!),” she says. “It seems like the woman never sleeps, because she is always reachable if ever a problem or question pops up.”
Poole admits she could do with more sleep, but downplays the whole helping from the hospital incident, where she says she simply took advantage of some downtime before emergency gallbladder surgery to catch up on work via her phone.
The travel industry veteran points out that cell phones and e-mail are the biggest changes she’s seen in the business over the years, meaning that everybody is available at all times – even when they’re in intensive care.
“You used to go home at 5 o’clock,” she says, noting that there is also no slow time in the industry, like summer or Christmas, anymore. “You used to be able to set your watch by it: Labour Day and it would get busy until Dec. 1.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the people, she says, gushing, “That’s the absolute best part of the job. The fires will always be there, but the number of amazing people I’ve worked with over 30 years… I always make the joke that 95 per cent of my friends on Facebook are from travel. [The industry] becomes your whole life if you let it. That’s what this whole industry is: relationships.”
It’s a belief that colours Poole’s persona and day-to-day affairs. “All you have to be is kind,” she says. Similarly, she urges agents to show respect and “not come out with their guns blazing” when a problem occurs, hearkening back to her description of BDMs as collaborators. “We’re in this together, especially at TravelBrands, as we’re not a consumer-facing brand. Travel agents are our clients and I want to work with them, not against them.”
And she will do everything she can to solve a problem by making “decisions that will work out as win-win for clients, agents and for TravelBrands.”
Indeed, she says the biggest flattery she receives is when an agent says, “If Tracy tells me ‘no,’ then the answer is no. Then they know I’ve exhausted every possibility.” Celebration Travel’s Kailley can’t imagine life without out Poole.
“If you don’t know Tracy, I probably sound like a crazy fangirl, but she has a ton of fans out here on the west coast,” she says. And the feeling is mutual, with Poole admitting that she gets “teary-eyed” whenever she thinks of all her friends in the business.
But she laughs when she recalls some of the “off-the-wall stunts” she’s been enlisted in as a BDM, aka brand ambassador, all in the name of doing her job.
“We’ll put Pooley in a costume,” she’s heard far too often from her bosses, shuddering, for example, at a stint in a Princess outfit at a TDC conference as the most recent example. A newscaster was another of the countless characters she’s played at trade shows over the years in a bid to bring a little colour to the company message she was conveying.
And then there was the time she had to reprise Bo Derek’s bikini-clad role in the movie 10 at another travel industry event. Halfway through having the corn rows put in her hair, the stylist lost interest and stopped, leaving an already dubious costume in even further distress.
“Oh my God,” Pooley laughs, “that was the wors
t. Ever!” But she’s quick to admit, “We do have fun. We sell a fun product. It’s all positive!” Leading fam trips is another favourite part of the job. “I have been so fortunate to have had fabulous groups, gone to some amazing places and met some pretty cool people.”
Asked her to pick a favourite, she pauses. “Everyone that knows me knows that I’m a pretty big Disney and Hawaii fan, so those ones are always favourites. I loved Fiji and the Cook Islands as well. Oh, and Costa Rica…”
In fact, she finally admits, “Every single fam has been my favourite at the time it happened.
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