19 APR 2010: Michele McKenzie, Canadian Tourism Commission’s president and CEO, is the first subject of Ilona Kauremszky’s new column which light heartedly explores what makes individuals in the travel business tick, and gives you some insights into the individuals who impact our industry.

Where was your last trip? Business or pleasure?

In March I was in India for four days. It was for business. The CTC is trying to open up that market. It was my first time there. I was there for the Mumbai portion. We’re seeing a lot of strength from the Indian market in Canada.

What’s your favourite airport? What’s the best thing about it?

Domestic it’s Vancouver and for international, it’s Shanghai. It was the first time I took a high-speed train to get to the airport. It was really neat.

What are your "necessity items" for a long flight?

Most recently a Kindle. I got a Kindle for Christmas but found it is very useful. You can also load other things onto it not just books. I also pack my Bose noise cancellation headphones and Ipod.

Where’s home?

North Vancouver but I also spend as much time as I can in Nova Scotia.

What’s your favourite getaway spot?

The beaches of Nova Scotia but I love to travel in Canada not just because it’s my job. It’s an amazing country full of diversity.

What do you drive?

A Toyota Camry hybrid

What three websites do you visit on a daily basis?

For news, it’s the CBC.ca and The Globe and Mail. My kids are always showing me the latest clip on YouTube and of course our own, Canada.travel.

What are you currently reading?

John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River and Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce

What are you listening to on your I-Pod?

My musical tastes are stuck in the 80s. But for Ipod listening it’s Matt Andersen from New Brunswick, Hawksley Workman, another Canadian and of course Blue Rodeo.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be?

A teacher. I still want to be one. I love learning and working with young people.

Do you have a mentor? Who is it?

Yes, several. My first one is Gordon Archibald. He was my first boss in my first full time job when I got out of university. He chaired the board that I worked for, the Scottish Societies of Nova Scotia.

He believed in me and let me do my thing. What he taught me was to take calculated risks and backed me up when I made mistakes. When you have a boss like that early in your career who gives you so much rope you have an opportunity to learn. And when you mess up and don’t cut your head off that’s big learning in itself. And then you can reflect on what it is that you did learn and go forward. He gave me so much flexibility early in my career which was great learning for me.

What trait do you admire in people?

Those who have a great balance. I love to work with people who are fully engaged and have a great balance in their life. They can play hard and work hard. Keep their life in perspective.

If you could invite one famous couple to join you for a meal, who would they be?

Although not internationally famous, if I could invite one couple – dead or alive – to join me for dinner, it would definitely be my maternal grandparents.

They were ‘Baymen’ (as opposed to ‘Townies’) from Newfoundland – a fishing family. Although, I remember them both well, they both died before I really appreciated their story. They are both a huge inspiration to me, and I would love nothing more than to share an evening with them and hear their story first hand.

What is your definition of happiness?

To keep a great balance in your life and work. Love what you are doing. I really love my work. To get up every day and love what you are doing.


Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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