With 11 years in the travel industry, Jim Tedesco has proven to be an effective and well respected leader. Before his position as Vice President of Sales for International Markets (North America/UK and Europe), Jim spent many successful years specializing in the wholesale side of the industry. In his VP of Sales for International Markets position Jim is responsible for an array of items, including the overall strategic direction of the Back-Roads brand in the International Markets. To learn more about Jim Tedesco and Back-Roads Touring Co., continue reading on.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Was there anything particular about traveling that influenced you to join the industry? A trip, or childhood experience possibly?
Jim Tedesco (JT): I’ve always loved traveling, but growing up my experiences were limited. I sort of fell into the industry thanks to a friend in graduate school who got me my first job in the industry as a marketing coordinator 11 years ago. Since then I’ve traveled the world, seen places I never imagined visiting, and have created a nice career out of it at the same time.
TRO: You spent many successful years in the wholesale industry before joining Back-Roads Touring Co. Was there anything you learned in that position that you have carried with you to your current position as VP of Sales for International Markets?
JT: I definitely feel that there are lessons learned from one position taken with me to the next, but they all tend to focus around leadership. There’s a quote that says “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” If my team thrives, or my clients thrive, I thrive. So it’s my main focus and duty to ensure that they receive the support needed to see that success. I take great pride as a leader when someone on my team gets promoted or reaches a sales goal, and I take extreme pride when a travel agency grows their Escorted Touring sales because of a training I conducted with them. My role as a leader is to provide the tools for others to become leaders.
TRO: You joined Back Roads Touring Co. in July of 2017 as an 11-year veteran of the travel industry. How does your current position vary from your previous one? Are there a lot of similarities? Differences?
JT: I was previously working more in the Mexico and Caribbean group space whereas now I’m much more focused on Europe and the introduction of our newest destination, Asia. This role though for me was a challenging opportunity to take the next step in my career, and look after the North American and Europe source market for a London based touring company. I’m responsible for everything and anything that can or has impacted growth from these markets which in and of itself is a large difference from my previous roles. However, one similarity is that the travel trade has remained a big portion of my focus, and I feed off of their energy and passion. It’s encouraging to see such growth over the last 18 months for Back-Roads Touring and see such a vast majority of that come from travel agents.
TRO: As the Vice President of Sales for International Markets, including North America and Europe, you must be quite busy! Is each day full of different tasks, or is each day the same? Show us what your day-to-day looks like.
JT: Some days are a blur, but that’s the beauty of the role. Every day is different, every obstacle requires a new solution, and every success celebrates a different win. While I touch base with members of my team quite often, we always make sure we have at least one call a week to ensure I’m providing the support they need, and they understand the expectations I’m looking for us to achieve in the market they cover. They set the path in which to meet those expectations, but I’m happy to offer advice. I am also very much hands on in the market so I travel quite often within North America and Europe, visiting with agencies, participating in trade shows, conducting trainings on our brands, etc. Every day is different, but that’s why I love this role and this company.
TRO: One of your responsibilities includes the overall strategic direction of the Back-Roads brand in international markets. How has your history in the travel industry helped you make these decisions? Do you have any advice, or tips and tricks for anyone seeking to realign their brand?
JT: I’ve had the pleasure of leading a few different teams for a few different brands, but I don’t think I would be able to do this role if it wasn’t for the knowledge I’ve been exposed to the last 11 years. I think many of my colleagues in the industry will agree when I say that your past experiences act as case studies when you are faced to make a strategic decision for the future. Much of what I do today for the future of Back-Roads Touring was crafted because of past decisions that have worked well, or were avoided because I know it was a disaster. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with travel agents for the entire 11 years. I always seek out their advice, but I also have a pretty good pulse on how they prefer to work. Much of our success in the trade market is from agencies who sell escorted tours, but have been looking for that “something new” their clients would enjoy. I highly recommend every travel agent takes a look at their business every few years and asks themselves what do their clients want? Yes, they may all still want cruises or all inclusive or escorted touring, but within those segments, what do they really want? With Back-Roads Touring, many agencies have done this and found that their clients were very much open to a small group concept at a leisurely pace. Agents sought out training to gain some knowledge, and then confidently offered an alternative to keep that client enthusiastic about their options.
TRO: Can you tell us about some of the tours offered by Back-Roads Touring Co.? What would you say is the most popular offering in terms of the North American and European markets? Do you have a personal favorite tour and if so, which one?
JT: Our most popular tours for North American passengers is the Tuscan Treats, the Corners of Cornwall, the Scottish Journey and The Emerald Isle. All of them have fantastic itineraries that really show you the heart and soul of those areas. Plenty of fun local inclusions. My favorite tour though is the Lakes, Mountains, and Valleys of Switzerland. I took this tour in September and fell in love with the country. The tour has you staying in some of the nicest little towns and villages, and the views are second to none. One of the local inclusions is a visit to Eggiwil, where you meet a man named Mr Bachman. He is the only man left that still hand makes the alphorn, and he shows you step by step how he makes it. It was an amazing experience.
TRO: Overseeing the Back-Roads brand internationally must take you to some absolutely beautiful places. Do you have a favorite destination? What about one you’ve always wanted to travel to but haven’t quite had the time yet?
JT: Being a London based company, I get across the pond a few times a year and it has quickly become a favorite destination of mine. I love visiting our team over there and I love the history and energy that a city like London offers. One place I have yet to get though, and has been on the bucket list for quite some time, is Australia. I’ve visited so many countries all around it, but have yet to land myself there. We have a Brisbane office as well, so one day soon I’m sure I’ll get a visit.
TRO: What can we expect to see from Back-Roads Touring this upcoming year? Anything exciting you can tell us about?
JT: Well, our Europe 2018 touring season is out and selling very well. Those tours will have departures from March through to October. We have some new tours in destinations like Malta, Madeira, and Iceland joining our portfolio of 50 tours in total across UK and Europe. We’ve also expanded our cruise and sail program to include some new itineraries along the canals of France on luxury barges, and a sailing tour thru the Bay of Naples. Lastly, we also just introduced tours through Asia! We’re very excited that we now have Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand and those are on sale now for departures beginning in September. As you can see, 2018 is going to be an incredibly exciting year for us.