CTO new representative in Canada has big plans
August 17, 2017
Years ago when Nancy Drolet’s mother was rewarded by her workplace with a vacation to Freeport in the Bahamas as a Christmas present, she took her daughter on the trip.
That was the young girl’s first visit to the Caribbean and it left an indelible imprint on her.
“Never before had I seen water so clear than we are used to in Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe,” Drolet recalled. “The Caribbean Sea was just so calm and beautiful.”
At an early age, she knew that she was going to be associated in some way with the region.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) recently appointed Drolet as its business development representative for Canada.
In that role, she’s expected to implement the CTO’s business development plan for the Canadian market, maintain consistent interaction with the travel industry, the Caribbean Diaspora and national tourist office representatives in Canada and organize trade and consumer events, including Caribbean Week Canada.
Fluent in French and Spanish, Drolet is a 25-year travel industry veteran having worked predominantly in sales and marketing for tour operators, including Fiesta Holidays and Thomson Vacations, and cruise lines, including Holland America and Windstar Cruises.
“I like the idea of bringing all aspects of what I have done in the past together for an area of the globe that I love,” she said. “I am really looking forward to working with our national tourist offices, tour operators and all the other stakeholders to grow our business in the Caribbean. Through training, education and partnership, I hope to help the travel trade in Canada discover more about the Caribbean.”
Never one to back down from a challenge, Drolet has hit the ground running.
Visitor traffic to the region from Canada was down for the first time last year since 1994. It was just the second contraction since 1982 and the 3.3 million arrivals represented a 3.4 per cent drop when compared to 2015.
The decrease last year was mainly due to a weak Canadian dollar and the Zika virus fear. Some Canadian airlines have also cut direct flights to Caribbean destinations.
Drolet said there has been resurgence in the first four months of 2017.
“This is reassuring, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” she pointed out. “A large number of our bookings go through travel agents and tour operators. A better job has to be done of promoting the region in terms of focussing on the culture, music, food, art and the various festivals. The Caribbean is so much more than just sun, sea and sand and that alone will not sell.”
Caribbean Week in Canada will be held from November 10-17.
“It will be a more robust event than in the past,” Drolet promised. “There will be consumer and trade events in addition to a Diaspora forum and a road trip to Montreal for a trade show.”
She said that some of the events during Caribbean Week in Canada will be fundraisers for the CTO Scholarship Foundation which aims to provide opportunities for Caribbean nationals to pursue studies in the areas of tourism, hospitality and language training.
The Foundation selects individuals who demonstrate high levels of achievement and leadership both within and outside the classroom and who express a strong interest in making a positive contribution to Caribbean tourism.
As part of her new role, Drolet plans to seek out opportunities for Caribbean nationals
“Having international experience is great,” she said. “While I worked for Fiesta Holidays, I was in England for a few years as a destination representative and that was such a wonderful experience for me because you get to understand things in the industry in a whole different light. I will use my contacts at colleges and universities here that have solid tourism programs to see if we can get some young people to get scholarships to come here and be trained.”
Falling in love with the Caribbean after her first trip to the Bahamas, Drolet visited Cuba and spent time with her family in Antigua during Carnival and Sailing Week.
She spent nearly four years working with Sandals and Radisson Resorts in the Bahamas before tying the nuptial knot and relocating to Montreal with her husband.
“I didn’t want to travel a lot after I married, so I joined Holland America Line based in Montreal as a business development manager and was there for about two years before coming back to Toronto and becoming a cruise product manager and then regional manager for Sears Travel Service,” said Drolet
After eight years with Sears, she ran her own company – Clearly Organized – for a decade – before joining the CTO.