“YYZ Travel was born on the 19 of August, 1986, and was nourished and flourished from one employee to over 100 employees today, from one department to many different entities,” said Vicky Zaltsman, the travel group’s founder and executive president. “It has a lot of history, a lot of sleepless nights, and total dedication to the job that I love: people entrusting you with their dreams, and YYZ having the responsibility of realizing those dreams.”
For Vicky Zaltsman, YYZ Travel Group is more than just a business. It’s the realization of a lifelong passion for travel, and for almost 30 years, the Ontario-based boutique agency has helped countless clients realize their own travel dreams. With a team of over 100 international agents speaking over 35 languages, offering packages ranging from worldwide high-end leisure and corporate travel to boutique specialty tours through Russia and Israel, YYZ Travel Group offers clients a crucial combination of convenience and knowledge for a seamless and stress-free experience.
When forming YYZ Travel Group, there was only one true goal in mind: to provide and maintain service, knowledge, and expertise at the highest level. This simple objective has helped YYZ Travel Group in building its business and staying on top through a drastically changing industry landscape.
“Not many independent traveler management companies can survive in this business as long as 30 years,” said Zaltsman. “The industry is a tougher environment today than it was 30 years ago. Technology has revolutionized how people book travel—we’re facing competition from online travel agencies and direct relationships with our suppliers.”
Zaltsman attributes YYZ Travel Group’s continued success over the years to its business model that prizes depth over breadth and quality results over volume.
“You can’t be all things to everyone,” said Zaltsman. “We know our niche and specialty, and try to be the best at it. We survived this long because we’re able to excel in our sphere and carve a place for ourselves in our marketplace. We stay close to our respective communities, and we find products and services that are underserved in the marketplace, for example accessible travel programs.”
“Relationships are everything in this business,” said Zaltsman, explaining that YYZ Travel Group is in constant contact with its travel partners in order to maintain those relationships. “One way we provide value to our clients is that, when something goes wrong or we need something special for our clients, we have that contact and can pick up the phone or send an email to a key person—the consumer alone does not have this option.”
YYZ Travel Group’s constant contact with travel partners does more than just keep its relationships with suppliers and partners strong—it also keep YYZ travel agents up to date on the latest products and services. “We have suppliers coming in on a weekly basis to discuss their products,” said Zaltsman. “It could be anywhere from a walk around the office to a seminar or webinar. Our agents are constantly up to date and engaged and they’re on top of the products being offered.”
This is a crucial part of providing clients with the best experience possible, as agents can be made aware of random temporary circumstances that could potentially derail a relaxing vacation, like weather issues or a normally luxurious hotel going through renovations.
“It’s important for us to be aware of that and pass this information on to the clients,” Zaltsman noted. “Especially in North America, where on average people have 2-3 weeks’ vacation. If you go on vacation for a week or two weeks, that’s it—the whole year’s almost gone. People work so hard for their money, and they want to have a vacation that’s worry-free.”
Throughout its decades in business, YYZ Travel Group has grown into a travel agency that is frequently recognized as being among the best of the best. The agency is a part of Virtuoso, an esteemed and exclusive high-end travel consortium ensuring quality luxury travel experiences for its clients, in addition to being a member of Air Canada’s Circle of Excellence.
“To put it into perspective: out of 5,000 travel agencies in Canada, about a dozen are part of Virtuoso,” Zaltsman explained. “We’re very proud of that. We’re also members of Circle of Excellence in Canada—and again out of thousands only 54 travel companies across Canada are part of the Circle of Excellence. It’s [membership] by nomination every year within Canada, and we’ve been part of it for the last six years.”
On a larger scope, YYZ Travel Group has also been recognized as an outstanding member of Ontario’s small business community. The travel agency has received multiple “Best Entrepreneur” awards from the Russian-Canadian Business Awards, and has been nominated in the “Best Small Business” category at the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce’s upcoming business achievement awards.
“It’s great to be recognized for our achievements,” said Zaltsman. “We don’t set out to win awards—we set out to just do our best. So when someone recognizes us, it does make us proud.”
What does the future hold for the travel industry? Zaltsman predicted an undeniable increase in the advanced role technology will play in booking and planning—but at the same time, this rise in technology may be driving an increase in consumers turning to the expertise and know-how of travel experts.
“With so much saturation over the internet, many are overwhelmed and unsatisfied and are returning to travel professionals seeking guidance for their travel plans,” said Zaltsman. “I don’t foresee that technology will change in the future—it will only escalate, and to a certain degree it will leave clients more frustrated. Certain situations that come to me: itineraries definitely cannot be booked on the internet, and clients planning a wedding or planning a honeymoon need a personal touch and guidance from a travel professional.”
Because of this, there will always be a place in the world for knowledgeable and well-connected agents in the travel industry that can harness the advances of technological convenience to provide even better customer service. “We can combine technology with a personal touch, and that’s what makes us different,” said Zaltsman. “If there’s a problem, we’re the insurance for our clients—they can rely on someone being there on the other end of the line, a real human rather than dealing with a computer.”
When the person on the other end of the line is as passionate, determined, and immersed in the industry as Zaltsman and her crew, it’s welcome and comforting insurance indeed.
“I love my job so much that whatever it is, whatever it takes, the most important thing is to facilitate client dreams and make them happy,” said Zaltsman. “I travel a lot myself, and pass my experiences on to the clients. I’ve been to all 7 continents, and there’s still room to travel and room for exploring.”
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