Interview of Gilles Martin – Development director french markets
Off to the DITEX show! With just a few days to go before his departure for the BtoB trade show for tourism professionals in Marseille, Gilles has agreed to be interviewed. He tells us about his career and his vision of the job. One month after taking up his new post, the French-speaking market development manager has big plans for Receptour!
Hello Gilles, and thank you for agreeing to answer our questions. Let’s start by looking at your background, if you don’t mind…
I’ve been in business for a couple of years now, so I’m going to try and sum up my CV! (laughs)
I’m a native of Montreal and after my studies in human sciences, I started working for a small local tour operator that did travel in the South. It was the 1980s and I had no experience, but I had the motivation and desire to work in tourism. And it paid off!
The unfortunate bankruptcy of this company led me to Trafic Voyages, an offshoot of Transat, specialising in certain destinations including France. One thing led to another, and Trafic Voyages created its own airline, Air Transat, with 1 aircraft that quickly became a fleet, and then sought to have its own distribution network. Air Transat Holidays was born! It’s a company that’s always been evolving, with ramifications. That’s why I stayed with the company for 37 years, working in a variety of positions and opportunities.
I was Sales Director at Air Transat France in Paris for 7 years. I came back to Montreal to work for DMC Transat, the receptive arm of Vacances Transat, and that’s how I met Charles, to whom I offered to sell some Windigo tours on the French market. I was again assigned to Paris for 3 years, shortly before 11 September 2001, which plunged the tourism market into crisis and reshuffled the cards…
In 2006, there was a change of direction, and I joined Air Transat in pure air travel until the Covid-19 pandemic. My role was to develop all the airline’s destinations by adding local representatives. We had to find GSAs, i.e. sales representatives for the airline in a specific country or region, so I travelled a lot and used my experience in tour operating to find GSAs.
It’s been a great journey! How did you get to Receptour?
Thanks to Charles and Jean-Christophe, who saw in me the right person to take on the challenge of conquering the French market. I’ve had the pleasure of watching them both grow professionally and I’m delighted to be able to support them at ToundriGo, thanks to my work at Receptour. It’s a great career move for me, after the unexpected blow of the pandemic and its consequences.
You’ve come from the airline industry to join a receptive company specialising in coaches. How do you feel about your job?
I find that the work of an incoming agent is much more complex than that of an airline or tour operator. And why is that? Because it’s an amalgam of services, threaded together with a fine thread to work for a given group, and it’s very complex. What’s more, most of these companies often don’t have the software that’s 100% suited to their work, so they’re unable to evolve. It’s not a simple product to put together!
It’s a challenge for me to return to the travel industry with a receptive company, but I find it exciting.
As Director of Development for the French-speaking market, what is your role at Receptour?
My job is to develop business in the French-speaking market. When we say French-speaking, that includes France, but also Belgium and Luxembourg. Why not the French West Indies too, Martinique and Guadeloupe. We need to think big!
At the start, Jean-Christophe and Charles brainstormed about the different ToundriGo brands and how to distribute them. Receptour has been on the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese markets for some time now, and it was important to invest in the French market with our expertise. The idea is to introduce ToundriGo by highlighting the complementary nature of Toundra and Receptour, which is the strength of the brands collectively, and to establish this on the French-speaking market. This is where I come in.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I’m coming into a company where the way of working is different from what I’ve known, so I’m learning all over again by adapting as much as possible to the Receptour way of working. I want to adapt this vision to the sales approach that I’m going to try to build up on the French-speaking market. Since I arrived a month ago, the rest of the team has been training me, bringing me up to date on the state of things and the business.
At the moment, I’m talking a lot with Marie Ravier (editor’s note: the sales director of Toundra Voyages), who has been well established on the French market for years, to see which customers might be interested in setting up group products via Receptour.
On 30 and 31 March, you’ll be at the DITEX trade fair in Marseille. What’s the purpose of this trip?
I’m going to meet several potential partners who could benefit from Receptour’s services. I’m looking forward to meeting the people I’ve worked with in the past and telling them about this new adventure. Tourism is a small world and I see great opportunities for Receptour. Fingers crossed!
You don’t seem to be afraid of the field!
In my previous life, I was away from home one week a month. It’s essential to meet your customers, future customers and employees abroad, in the field. I’m used to that.
When you travel a lot for work, as you do, can you still enjoy a “leisure” trip?
The positive aspects of leisure travel and those of business travel are juxtaposed. For me, they are the same. When I travel for work, it’s never a chore, it’s about getting to the essence of the discovery. Conversely, when I travel for personal reasons, what interests me is the people and the different cultures. I think there’s nothing more enriching, on a personal and professional level, than being able to confront new environments with different ways of doing things, thinking, seeing things and adapting to them!
The idea is both to integrate these new things and to take advantage of them. Behind the journey, it’s always the human race with its different mentalities. It’s challenging and I’ve always liked that.
You worked in Paris for 10 years. That said, does a true Montrealer like you always end up coming back to the city of his birth?
I feel like I’ve come full circle, as they say! (laughs).
I met my wife in Paris, and she’s French. When the children arrived, my prerogatives changed with regard to where I live. As parents, you always try to give your children the best quality of life and the best opportunities, and their well-being comes first. For a variety of reasons, Montreal met all the criteria for my family, so here we are again on Quebec soil! (smile).
What are you most proud of in your career?
While I’m waiting to be able to cite a great success at Receptour, I’d say that I had a keen eye for the professional opportunity that the WHP represented for Air Transat when I was working there.
The pvtistes.net website was created by French people and I had seen that it offered insurance for travellers coming to Canada, but no air travel at the time, in 2015. I suggested integrating Air Transat as an airline and offering one or two pieces of luggage to people going on a WHP. We developed this and remained exclusive until before the Covid-19 pandemic.
I think it’s a great success because it allowed an airline to make itself known to the younger generation and to look to the future.
Receptour’s strength is also its multilingual team. Do you speak many languages?
French and English only, but I’m very good at surrounding myself properly and filling in the gaps! (laughs).
What is your favourite Receptour programme?
I really liked the ‘Québec Autrement’ tour, which goes off the beaten track by taking travellers to the Eastern Townships, for example. It’s a great showcase, especially for telling colleagues in the industry that Receptour offers something innovative and distinctive that represents good value for money. You really have to know how to stand out from the crowd!
How do you see the sales strategy for the coming year?
The team is currently working on the 2024 tours, with other accommodation proposals to give us options and reach more specialist tour operators. The strategy is also to focus on winter in Quebec, because it has a real appeal to customers. Once these products have been fine-tuned and finalised thanks to a real team effort, it will be my job to open the doors for Receptour to shine on the French-speaking market. I’m really excited!
On a more personal note, what’s your travel favourite?
As I’ve got older, I’ve become less of a city dweller and enjoy spending time with my family in the great outdoors. I love the Mauricie region, the Lac à l’Eau Clair and the Pourvoirie du Lac Blanc for example. I fish there, and it’s a natural environment that I really appreciate.
I’ve also been lucky enough to visit Asia several times (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand…) and I loved those experiences. These trips were full of culture shock, which made me grow a lot, opened me up to the world and made me fit for life as an expat.
Before saying goodbye and thanking you for this exchange, I’ll leave you with the last word…
My assessment after a few weeks with ToundriGo is positive.
I like the dynamic within the company and the cross-functional approach we take. It’s a great challenge that Jean-Christophe, Charles and Linda have given me to propel Receptour onto the French market.
I don’t have enough data to talk about it yet, because it’s all new and exciting, but it’s great fun to get back into the swing of things. I can’t wait to see what happens next!