Living life outside the bubble
Women in Travel Monique Gomel
After working for iconic brands like L’Oréal and EA Sports, where she helped launch the company’s first female targeted product and its first foray into the fitness segment – which went on to be their highest selling title on the Wii platform – Monique Gomel was drawn to the travel industry.
“One of the things about Rocky Mountaineer was I was interested in working for an organization that connected with me on a more personal basis and one thing that’s really important to me is valuing experiences over things,” she told Canadian Travel Press. “The idea of working for a company whose purpose is to create life-changing experiences was extremely compelling and something that I really felt that I could get behind.”
Having had the opportunity to work and study abroad at a young age, the vice president of Global Marketing and Communications for Rocky Mountaineer since 2015 said travel had a big impact on her life.
“I was able to work in Mexico and the Middle East when I was quite young, and I studied in Spain, and being able to get outside of my bubble and live and work in different cultures and meet different kinds of people at a young age formed such an impression around how big the world is, all the opportunities, how things aren’t necessarily the same as in your own backyard,” she recalled. “Being able to form relationships and lifelong friendships with people in other countries, it opened my eyes for the potential that’s out there and created a desire to see more. I feel fortunate to have had those experiences at an early age.”
As the company celebrates 30 years in business this year, she continues to enjoy how dynamic it is to work in the industry and the growing potential of bringing more guests on board.
“Travel is subject to things that are going on in the world, the economy, politics, trends, so I just love the ever-changing nature of it,” she said. “I love being able to market to different regions of the world that have different dynamics, different things that they’re looking for in travel and the destinations that they want to go to. From a marketing point of view travel is so interesting because it’s not a linear journey. People discover your brand in different ways, the path to purchase isn’t always clear, it’s a really interesting challenge in terms of trying to drive people to your business.”
Working across various markets, she said guests from different countries look for different things from a vacation. While seeing the Rocky Mountains tends to be a bucket list experience across the board, it’s about more than just soaking up the scenery.
“They’re looking to have a social experience on the train, culinary is a huge driver that we’re seeing among travel, being able to offer all those things together is something that’s quite compelling,” she said. “One of the markets we’ve entered in the last couple of years is China and that’s been really interesting in terms of seeing what they are looking for and there are some differences. For example, for the Chinese travellers that we’re targeting, also being able to have that cosmopolitan experience, being able to market the vibrant cities and the shopping, that’s an important piece. When we’re looking to that market, we lean hard into the fact that we have this pristine scenery and fresh air, and that’s really important, but then equally important is you can dovetail a few days in Vancouver and experience the great restaurants and the shopping. That’s a different nuance versus when we’re marketing to our American or Australian guests.”
For travel agents, a key takeaway to increase bookings is to consider year-round travel for clients.
“The peak season, the summer, is popular but it’s equally extraordinary in the spring and in the fall,” she said. “In autumn there are beautiful fall colours, in the spring you tend to see a lot of the wildlife coming out of hibernation, just for myself having had the opportunity to be able to experience it in those seasons, I just think it’s extraordinary.”
As vice chair of the board of directors for Destination Canada, and a board director for Tourism Vancouver, she’s also been able to glean more insight into the travel industry. Through the board she was also invited to sit on a council dedicated to advising on a new federal tourism strategy for the country led by the Federal Minister of Tourism.
“For Destination Canada it has been really interesting to understand how Canada fares versus the rest of the world in terms of our competitiveness in travel and being a top destination, what are some of the barriers to growing our share of travel, having a greater appreciation for a lot of the experiences that are outside of western Canada,” she said. “Our board meetings are always in a different part of Canada, and so through that board I’ve been able to go to the Yukon, I was in Newfoundland a few months ago, and every time we have one of those meetings we meet with a lot of local tour operators in the region and really understand the different dynamics and nuances of all the regions in Canada.”
Having great bosses throughout her career, which also includes positions with Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and Earls Restaurants, she counts herself fortunate to have had great bosses and to keep in touch with some of the women from her MBA program from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.
“They really believed in me, really took the time to coach and give me lots of feedback, and they are still resources that I’ve been able to go back to when I need advice,” she noted. “Also I’ve been really lucky that when I did my MBA program to build some friendships with some women who have gone on to be quite successful and just having them in my circle and being able to lean into their advice knowledge and experience has been really useful to me.”
As for advice she’d give her younger self, it would be to know the value she brings to the table.
“I would say one of the things is trusting my instincts and I think another big one is knowing my worth, knowing my value and not being afraid to advocate for myself or my value or even negotiate in some circumstances,” she says.