Nanette Chan spent most of her summer on the phone. It wasn’t because she was texting friends or making weekend plans like most under-20-somethings. Instead, she was busy working as an operations assistant at one of Western Canada’s top luxury tour operators, Entrée Destinations.

The co-op work term placement involved dealing with high-profile clients—including some local celebrities—making sure their every need was met.

“One gentleman wanted one scoop of vanilla and one scoop of chocolate ice cream for his two children,” recalls Nanette, who’s currently in her second year of the Bachelor of Tourism Management program. “Another asked, ‘Please make sure there are two Dasani water bottles inside the car, on the right side.” Instead of a queen-sized bed, the same client requested two separate king beds in the hotel room.

The four months spent in the downtown Vancouver office tested the skills Nanette learned in the classroom while opening her eyes to what luxury is—a world where money is no issue. In her own words, she was “blown away.”

Going the extra mile

Entrée Destinations, which operates in Canada and Alaska, is known for its customized and high-end excursions—anything from taking a helicopter ride over the Juneau Ice Field to a private dogsledding adventure to getting up-close-and-personal with grizzlies, Kermode bears, belugas and orcas.

As the operations assistant, Nanette spent much of her day on the phone, calling suppliers (the Fairmont Pacific Rim, Rosewood Hotel Georgia and Regency Limousine, to name a few) and following up with reservations and special requests.

“They all knew me by my voice but I’d never met them—that’s how much I called them,” she chuckles. “Some days I would come home with a sore throat from talking so much. I just loved talking to and working with our partners.”

Working with only the finest products—sometimes helping with client files of more than $100,000 in value—Nanette admits she was never bored.

“Every day was different in terms of what I was dealing with. There was always something to solve or something to plan. It kept me on my toes.”

The best part of her experience, however, was working alongside the Entrée staff, who routinely did whatever they could to make their clients happy. One sales manager located a rice cooker in the middle of the night in order to have it shipped off the next day to a remote location. Another spent four hours walking around downtown Vancouver, searching the streets looking for his client—who needed to make a helicopter flight but had wandered into Pacific Centre to do some shopping. The only description the manager was given was that the client was wearing a red and yellow shirt.

“He found him eventually! It was just insane and inspiring the things they would do, the things I would experience,” Nanette said.

Lessons learned

Along the way, the Capilano student said she learned how to manage her time, having to multi-task almost every minute. She calls her in-depth look into this corner of the tourism industry “the biggest jumpstart [she] could have ever asked for.”

“I think it’s extremely lucky for a first-year student to get to experience this kind of luxury tourism,” Nanette explains. “I feel like I learned how to serve people better. It doesn’t matter who you are, I considered everyone a VIP. You have to be genuine, understanding and real.”

The co-op placement opened many doors, she adds, including making numerous connections with people in her field. The 19-year-old is confident that if she were to apply for a job with one of Entrée’s partners, she’d have a good shot at being selected.

“I’ve had people ask me to work for them while I was working at Entrée. I’m beyond thankful,” she says.

Eventually, Nanette dreams of working her way up the managerial ladder at a luxury hotel. But after getting a little taste of the finer things, those plans might change.

“After working at Entrée, I wouldn’t mind doing what they do. I’d definitely do it again!”

Submitted by Communications & Marketing, written by Tereza Verenca

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Interested in a career in luxury tourism? Learn more at the Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Info Night on February 23, 2016.

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