Agents Experience Vietnam With G Adventures

As CEO, John Tran’s job comes with a lot of responsibility… but it’s far from the regular office duties typically associated with such a position. That’s because at G Adventures, tour leaders are called Chief Experience Officers, which he explains, means he’s “in charge of life-changing experiences.”

On the first morning of our G Adventures FAM trip, currently underway in Vietnam, he already gave the small group of agents a look at what that entails. Despite being in the popular Halong Bay area with dozens of other junk boats nearby, he facilitated a more off-the-grid kayak excursion to explore several remarkable caves along the UNESCO World Heritage site.

“This place is for G Adventures travellers,” Tran said after the group climbed out of their kayaks and up a ladder at Trong Cave, where the ceiling is covered in stalactites and gives way to impressive views of the area’s famous towering limestone islands. “It’s kind of far [for other groups] and not many people want to get out of the kayak the way we did and they’re not that adventurous.”

Next, after countless photos, he led the group to another stunning cave known as Trinh Nu Cave, which can be described as an outer-worldly natural attraction.

“It feels like this is not real,” noted Jacqueline Hider of Marlin Travel Mississauga. “It’s like a movie scene.”

As the group travelled back to spend the night on a junk boat (which despite what it sounds like isn’t actually a shabby way to spend the night) following a swim on a secluded stretch of beach, Rhonda Ennis of Inc. noted how valuable it is for agents to experience destinations — and what sets tour operators apart — in person.

“There’s just a world of knowledge from being able to give first-hand experience to a client,” she said.

And for Jenna English, Global Purpose Specialist for British Columbia & Northern Territories at G Adventures, who is escorting the Canadian FAM group, that’s what these immersive trips are all about.

“The easiest way to sell us is to experience us,” she shared.

After watching the sunset and eating a flavourful meal on the ship, the next morning the FAM group got up up bright and early to conquer Ti Top island. While all 1,969 islands in Halong Bay are uninhabited, Ti Top features a pagoda offering visitors a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. It was a balmy 43°C out but the group conquered the mission, albeit dripping in sweat, and admired the views from the top before climbing back down some 400 steps to cool off on the beach.

“How is this my life right now?” Kaylee Mitchell of Flight Centre Orchard Park said with a smile.

Notably, our G Adventures CEO is on a quest to fundraise enough money for G Adventures’ non-profit foundation Planeterra to get the chance to attend the recently announced GX Summit, which will be held in Peru this September.

As a “fun-draiser” initiative for what he called the “the trip of my lifetime,” the FAM group pledged to help Tran reach his goal if he painted his nails a shade of G Adventures purple.

“Through successful fundraising, I will be given a chance to visit Peru where we will have an opportunity to learn more about how Planeterra and G Adventures are running projects there,” he said.

Among the generous donations, Edwin Thompson of Go With Hippo Travel pitched in $346 to help make his dream a reality. Through the FAM group’s overall donations and efforts, Tran’s team jumped for 33rd place to 17th place. Donations are accepted until May 25th. Travel advisors also have the chance to be in attendance by selling G Adventures trips until June 30th through the Change Makers initiative. 

And for those back home who are looking to take part in a G Adventures FAM too, here’s the scoop. Applications are sent out in January for the upcoming year.

“My advice would be to put a lot of thought into your application and sell us on why you are the best fit for your preferred FAM,” English suggested. “This past year we had 170+ applications, and approximately 45 FAM spots so it can get competitive.”

English said the tour operator typically looks for a mix of agency partners and experience levels when they fill the positions.

“There is a great opportunity for agents to network and learn from one another,” she added. 

The advisors taking part in the FAM are Danielle Paré, Voyages Aqua Terra/Synergia; Shane Dineen, Flight Centre Kitsilano; Carol Leung, The Travel Agent Next Door; Rhonda Ennis, Inc., Edwin Thompson, Go With Hippo Travel; Kaylee Mitchell, Flight Centre Orchard Park; and Jacqueline Hider, Marlin Travel Mississauga.