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Friday, 08 June 2007

TRAVELHOTNEWS PROFILE: JEAN COLLETTE

Agency owner, ACTA Chair, industry consultant – and recreational cyclist
Charmaine Pang

Jean Collette
While Jean Collette wears many hats, some industry professionals may know Mr. Collette from his role as Chair of the ACTA Board of Directors, a post he was elected to in 2006, having also served as Secretary/Treasurer of ACTA and Chair of ACTA Québec Regional Council. He also represents the travel agent community on the Comité consultatif des agents de voyages, whose function is to advise the Québec Minister on all issues concerning the activities of travel agents.

Collette also runs his own business, the travel agency, Club Voyages Dumoulin. In 2002, with his wife and business partner Marigée Tisseur, he decided to invest in and purchase a travel agency in Laval, Quebec. In a five-year span, they acquired a total of ten agencies, making Club Voyages Dumoulin the largest retail travel agency network/chain in Quebec.

A summer job that never ended!

Golfing at an ACTA tournament with wife and business partner Marigée Tisseur
Born in Montreal in the Plateau region, Jean Collette spent the first fourteen years of his life there, but then relocated with his family to Quebec City. This is where his career began – back in 1983 as a tour guide for Maple Leaf Tours. Little did he know that this “fun summer job” would blossom into a lifelong career for him!

“Around this time, it was a very exciting place to be, Quebec City. There was a big event, known as ‘Quebec ‘84’, to commemorate a special event. The old port was being renovated and they were pumping quite a bit of money into it, there was to be a sailing race between Quebec City and Saint-Malo, France.”

In fact, that year, 1984, marked the 450th anniversary of explorer Jacques Cartier’s first voyage to Canada. Cartier sailed from his native Saint-Malo, France, and landed at Quebec City, raising the city’s profile and creating a high demand for tourism products and services.

“It was almost like an Olympic fever in the town. I was in my early twenties and I lived on a main street. There were these tour buses that kept driving back and forth by my home, with tour guides, and I thought that would make a great summer job.”

With the wheels turning in his mind, Collette took a course at a local college to refresh his knowledge of local history, landmarks, and architecture. He had no trouble finding work as a bilingual guide, having command of both official languages.

“I liked the work, and so I never left after the summer – I stayed on” – and how. In just five years, he worked his way up the ranks: “I was a tour guide, then I found myself managing and overseeing the other guides, dispatching tours, and I eventually became the Operations Manager at Maple Leaf Tours.”

A taste of the cruise life…

With Bill Maguire, past ACTA President
As Operations Manager, Collette gained experience working with cruise lines docking at the Quebec City port. Maple Leaf Tours would arrange bus transfers, run coach tours, and other programs for cruise lines, one of which was Regency Cruises. Roughly 700-800 people a day would debark for city tours and transfers.

“This is how I was exposed to the cruise business. We had really good contracts, but we eventually lost them to our competitors – we tried to represent the cruise companies and regain these contracts, and that is what led me to Cruise Holidays.”

From 1992 to 1995, Collette worked as a travel agent and manager of Cruise Holidays, whose business was packaging and selling cruises. “Cruises weren’t as popular as they are today in Quebec, and there weren’t that many agencies specializing in cruises then.”

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t change the trade name because it was a franchise, and it didn’t have a French-language name. So I would pick up the phone and say ‘Bonjour, “Cruise Holidays,” je m’appelle Jean,’ and this is Quebec City – everyone only spoke French,” he laughs.

The party begins at Carnival

Speaking at the ACTA ATLAS Awards, June 2007
In 1995, with some cruise experience under his belt, he began his position at Carnival Cruise Line as Business Development Director for the Quebec & New Brunswick markets.

Thus began an era of “lots of traveling and hard work. It was a great opportunity for me to experience. Because I had worked more with inbound travel and the retail business, now I got a chance to work with outgoing travel on the supplier side.”

When asked whether he still likes going on cruises, he says, “Yes, I still enjoy it! Actually, I went on two cruises this year – both to the Caribbean, in November last year and again this February.”

King of the Club

With the Club Voyages Dumoulin team
Now president of Club Voyages Dumoulin, “a big part of my life,” Collette and his wife, Marigée Tisseur manage nine agencies and a staff of about fifty, “the reason why we are successful.”

Although he is a busy man, he sometimes gets a chance to relax and pursue his “latest passion,” cycling. Collette goes out and rides “whenever I get the chance and every time there’s a bit of sun around,” going for 60 to 100-kilometer rides at a time. He reveals that he has several bikes, and relishes the opportunity to “really visit your environment and get to know it. Taking the roads is unbelievable – keeps me in shape and it relieves my stress!”

Looking ahead to the future

So, what are his thoughts on the industry? “The travel industry is going through a series of growth spurts – it’s very exciting to be involved in it at this time. The events of 9/11 obviously affected us in many ways, tourism being so vulnerable to events like that, but retailers and agencies have learned. You have to be on your toes and think ahead.”

“I have a friend in the medical field and I tease him because I’m always dealing with happy people, and people who are excited [about their upcoming vacations]. I always joke to him that I am dealing with people who are happy to see me,” says Collette.

“It’s great to be in the industry now – we have consumers knocking on our doors. The industry has its challenges but it’s growing and we’re looking ahead to the future.”

At the ACTA ATLAS Awards


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