Commentary: Tourism Matters: Time to reflect

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Adrian Loveridge has spent 52 years in the tourism industry across 67 countries, as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator and for the last 24 years as a small hotel owner on Barbados. He served as a director of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and as chairman of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a director of the Barbados Tourism Authority and is a frequent writer on tourism

By Adrian Loveridge

As I enter my 53rd year in tourism it’s perhaps time to reflect on some of the very many experiences and opportunities this incredible industry has brought to me.

Having spent a prolonged period as a child in hospital being treated for what, at that time, was a disease with a 50% mortality survival rate, the seemingly endless days were abridged with second hand copies of National Geographic magazines.

Even in the late 1950s the journal’s photography was outstanding and it was those images that drove my relentless interest in travel.

My first ‘voyage’ of discovery was at the age of 16 years, hitch-hiking from England to Istanbul in Turkey.

I vividly recall seeing Paris for the first time and trying to comprehend how a city, so close to London, could be so strikingly different. Paris would later become the most popular destination for our tour operation company and I would re-visit literally hundreds of times, without for a single second, losing any of its magical appeal.

Soon after, I travelled to Canada and, whilst maintaining two jobs, one at McDonalds and another as a waiter at the Lock, Stock and Barrel, it allowed me to volunteer my services to a local travel agency to acquire the necessary skills to make a living within the industry.

Whilst still in the travel industry I replied to an advertisement in the British Sunday Times placed by a Swiss based company, Globus Gateway. They invited me to an interview that took place in a nondescript third floor office in Oxford Street in London’s West End. At the time I felt the interview went badly for me and I returned to Canada. Days later an invitation arrived to join a training tour taking in as many European countries as there is in a week.

Looking back it is now easy to understand that this training tour was for me, and the other 20-plus hopefuls, an endurance test for physical and mental ability.

Once again, so doubtful that I had secured the job as a tour director, I returned to Winnipeg. To my absolute astonishment, about a week later a telex arrived in my office on Portage Avenue instructing me to collect all relevant documentation to guide T628. The ‘T’ indicated the type of European tour and the ‘628’ the date it started — 28th June.

Fortunately, the 36 Americans booked on T628 arrived at Heathrow and spent the first two nights in London, a city that I had an intimate knowledge of. But, that was just the beginning.

T628 turned out to be the longest tour operated by the company — 47 days duration, taking in 16 sovereign countries, four of which I had never visited before! Three days later, I and the group flew to Madrid to begin the Continental European portion.

In broken Spanish I introduced myself to the main motor coach driver and sheepishly asked Manuel if he knew Europe well. His response was that he lived in Madrid and occasionally visited Barcelona. He had never been outside of Spain whilst driving a coach…

The adventure began and despite all the associated challenges, I managed to complete the tour almost seven weeks later.

I would always be grateful to Globus for giving me an incredible opportunity and, if there is any recognisable moral to this week’s column, it is the travel and tourism industry provides an unparalleled platform to advance a career anywhere in the world.

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