Over the past 30 years she has had various roles in business development in the travel industry. Throughout my career she has worked in tour operation with Air Canada Vacations, Travelbrands and TMR Holidays in Canada, along with retail management of Solways Travel and GTA Travel a seller of accommodations and transfers. Having worked in various avenues of the travel industry in Canada, she has gained valuable experience in sales, operations and marketing of travel products through both retail and wholesale clients. Vicki’s position is presently Director of Business Development, The Americas, with Blue-Roads Touring and Topdeck. This allows her to oversee key distribution partners in the Americas, developing, coordinating and implementing new strategic plans to advance existing business and secure new sales opportunities. Vicki is tasked with both forming new business partnerships with the brands’ key distributors, while further managing relationships with current distribution partners. It is an exciting time in travel, as clients are looking for unique experiences in their travel adventure.
Travel Research Online: Hello, Vicki. How are you this fine February day?
Vicki Theophilou: I am doing well and enjoying the wonderful winter day. Thank you for arranging to chat with me.
TRO: You’ve worked in the travel industry for some time now, and at a few companies. How are you enjoying the position at Blue-Roads Touring Co.?
VT: Yes, working at Blue-Roads has offered me a different product to represent. Our product offerings are for the client that has experienced the mass-market coach product, and is now looking for a tour that will offer them more of what a destination has to offer. Also, Canada and the USA are fairly new markets for us, and every day brings new partnerships that we work with the increase our awareness.
TRO: The Americas are a great example of why a traveler doesn’t have to travel to the other side of the planet for an amazing experience. Can you tell us about some of the more popular tours with Blue-Roads in the Americas?
VT: Sure, we have launched our North America tours this year with the first tour leaving end of March. Some of the popular tours are Classic California Coast, A Taste of Northern California which includes the Napa Valley area, Heart of the Deep South which touches New Orleans/Natchez/Memphis, Charming New England Tours both summer and fall, Historic America: Freedom and the Civil War and the ever popular Stories of the Southwest which touch Grand Canyon/Durango/Santa Fe/Colorado Springs. We have had a great response for our NA tours both here and overseas. Just want to highlight that these tours are operated the same way our Europe tours are with a maximum of 18 passengers.
TRO: Blue-Roads Touring is known for its unique method of setting up tours that go beyond the common sights, to smaller and out-of-the-way sites. How does this change the way you build relationships with partners to make a better tour?
VT: Our ability to set our tours in the smaller regions and towns, with guides from these areas, enables us to have a great relationship with our partners and suppliers. The fact that we use small boutique hotels, where the owners are on premise, also allows our clients to meet a local resident and enjoy the warm hospitality of the region. We bring the clients to the areas that other larger coach companies would just drive by – or maybe not pass through the area. Our retail partners can be assured that our tours will introduce their clients to authentic experiences, never-to-be-forgotten views, and hand-picked retreats brimming with local charm – while providing them with the time and space to explore independently. This formula is a win for both our suppliers and retail partners.
TRO: Compared to other industries, the travel industry has some of the best cohesion and teamwork I’ve seen among “competitors” and separate businesses. Why do you think this is, and how does the traveler benefit from these connections?
VT: The travel industry is a small, close community where it is not uncommon for someone to know, or have heard of, you or your products. We are all working toward creating the best experience, not only for the client but our travel partners as well. Since our industry is at times effected by circumstances that we do not control, we all work toward assisting each other and focusing on our common goals for our clients. Whether it is the hotel, coach tour, or travel leader – even competitor – we all strive to ensure that the adventure of travel is a great experience.
TRO: Are there any plans for Blue-Roads style of touring in South America?
VT: Presently our expansion has been in Europe/Asia and the introduction of North America. South America is on the radar, but not in the immediate future. Expansion in North America will come first.
TRO: Given your years of navigating the travel industry, what stands out as the most important lesson of managing relationships with business partnerships?
VT: I believe the most important lesson in managing relationships has been to show empathy for my travel agent partners for the tremendous job they do every day — learning the products of their supplier partners, assisting them with issues and questions, offering them assistance when they need it in a timely matter and, most important, offering them the training/information they need to close the sale. I always believe that partnership is two sides, and always strive to ensure that our team and myself offer the best service and advise to our agents.
TRO: How does Blue-Roads Touring work with the Agent/Advisor to create a fully enjoyable experience for the traveler?
VT: We work closely with our Agent/Advisor partners training them on the difference of the small coach experience and the benefits of using Blue-Roads for those clients that are looking for something more intimate, laid back, and unrushed experiences in their tours. Our team is available with trainings, participation in trade shows, or creating flyers to promote a tour or destination. We do not offer direct consumer bookings, as our partners are the Agents/Advisors. There are videos available outlining our tours, as our Customer Service teams are very knowledgeable about the tours and provide all the answers to the client’s questions. Not only do we offer the tour, but also have pre- and post-hotel transfers that they can book with us. As I mentioned earlier, we are in a partnership with the Agents/Advisors and our goal is to win the sale for them.
TRO: Can you let us in on any big news that Blue-Roads has coming up?
VT: We are looking at expanding our tour options for the coming 2021 season, but as yet I am not able to tell you the destination. But, our partners can keep a look out for our launch of the new Europe 2021 to see the new itineraries.
TRO: Vicki, thank you for your time. Hopefully we’ll speak again soon.
VT: Thank you for the opportunity and look forward to speaking with you again as well. Just before we close, I want to remind the agents that Kristina Zito is our National Sales Manager in the USA, Miles Walker is the BDM for Western Canada and, along with my role, I also cover Eastern Canada. If they have questions about Blue-Roads – please do not hesitate to reach out.
For more information on Blue-Roads Touring, please visit https://www.blueroadstouring.com/