Interview with Justine Boulaire, contracting and product manager
Since joining Receptour, Justine has been putting her expertise in the field to work for the team. A lover of the outdoors, hyperactive and radiating positivity, she puts a lot of heart into creating her itineraries. She agreed to be interviewed to tell us about her unusual career path, her passion for yoga and her Van Life dream. What a program!
Hello Justine! You told me that you come from France originally, what made you decide to move to Montreal?
I arrived in Quebec in 2018 with the desire to change my life and not get stuck in a “metro-boulot-dodo” frenchy routine. Five years later, I’m living in the woods, in the heart of the Laurentians, and loving my life!
Born in the north of France, I grew up near Avignon, with my family. At the age of 18, I left the nest to study at the SKEMA business school in Lille, specializing in the wine and spirits business. I was lucky enough to work for a number of major companies, including Danone and the Vranken-Pommery wine house, for whom I was sales representative for the Paris-Est region.
In my mind, changing country meant changing career… As I approached my thirties, I felt that I had reached the end of a cycle, and I wanted to do a job that was more in tune with myself. I’ve always been on the move! In fact, my mother likes to tell anyone who will listen that she “brought her daughter into the world with a backpack on her back” (laughs).
Did you have the opportunity to travel a lot before arriving in Quebec?
A lot, especially during my studies!
I’ve also been on two humanitarian trips to the Philippines. I volunteered at a private day-care center. There are no nursery schools over there, and children don’t enter the school system until they’re 5 or 6. It was an incredible experience… I learned Tagalog through contact with the children, to whom I also spoke English and French.
Not sure if you use Tagalog on a daily basis, but having a facility with languages is a strength for working at Receptour, isn’t it?
We’re in the Latin market (Italy, Spain, Mexico) and the French-speaking market (France, Belgium, Luxembourg), so it’s definitely better to be able to cope.
Incidentally, I’m going to have to improve my Spanish, as I’ve got programs to put together for our Mexican customers, and I have to translate them myself. Last weekend, I watched Cédric Klapisch’s L’Auberge Espagnole in VO and I was very proud!
I understand perfectly well, I have no trouble with the written word, but I admit I’m rusty at speaking…
Can you tell us about your day-to-day work at Receptour?
My job is Purchasing and Production Manager. My role is to build itineraries, in Word format, with a price adapted for groups. Often classic itineraries, for our European clientele who land in Montreal and stay here for around 10 to 12 nights. I write beautiful descriptions to make agencies want to buy, and I’m also in charge of negotiating rates and conditions with our suppliers. I’m also responsible for updating the database we use to draw up quotes. This is a huge task, as we have many suppliers across Canada.
These itineraries serve as a sales base for our forfeiters. They receive e-mails from agencies with a request, and then they pick and choose from my itineraries, using them as a basis for tailor-made tours. Sometimes the customer buys as is, because my itineraries are priced.
I work closely with Gilles, our French-speaking market manager, as he uses my programs as a showcase when he goes out to canvass customers.
It was Linda herself who contacted me on LinkedIn to ask me to join the team in December. It was a challenge, as I’d been out of the office for over 2 years. She made me want to do it, so I jumped on board, and I don’t regret it!
Your career path prior to Receptour looks very hectic… Would you like to tell us more?
My first professional experience in Quebec was with Aventures Plein Air, where I worked as a booking agent, dog sledding guide and snowmobile guide. It was my first winter in the woods, and I knew I’d made the right expatriation decision. At that time, Fabienne from Tourisme Laurentides became a great friend. I consider her my aunt.
I started making contacts, and through word-of-mouth, I landed a job in operations, then as a forfaitiste at Jonview. Historically, Transat’s offices are in the same tower and I was poached! For 3 weeks, I organized the repatriation of all our Canadians who were in the sun, as we were at the beginning of the pandemic. Covid got me laid off at Transat, but for the record, I was able to benefit from employee rates for 1? years. This enabled me to return to France to see my family, as it was a difficult time for everyone…
In 2020, in Quebec, the government was giving $500 a month to stay at home because of Covid, but I wanted to make myself useful and not twiddle my thumbs in my 3 ½ in Montreal. So I worked at the supermarket down the street for 6 months, putting fruit on the shelves with my mask and social distancing.
Shortly afterwards, I spotted a job posting on Facebook to go diving in Nunavut, near the Arctic Circle, and I went for it! I arrived at the mine, a camp of 500 people, all men, lots of noise and -40 outside… Some people think it’s a pain to work with the Inuit, but I enjoyed it, even though there are a lot of social problems to deal with. On a human level, it was intense, but I learned a lot. I stayed for 2 years and ended up as a kitchen supervisor!
Then, in June 2022, tourism was starting to recover and I was ready to go back. I left Nunavut to go guiding, on the road. Both in large coaches for agencies like Receptour, and in mini-vans in the West for Windigo Aventures.
The rest is history (laughs).
So you had already set foot in Toundrigo’s ecosystem! Tourism is a small world…
Since the pandemic, many people have changed jobs. Whether in hotels, receptions or Regional Tourist Agencies. I’m meeting up with former colleagues in other positions, and we’re partners now, which is great fun.
On the other hand, you can quickly get burnt out, as they say! You have to be careful and turn your tongue 7 times in your mouth before you speak…
Given your experience, do you have to guide groups alongside your office work?
Linda’s not against the idea of me guiding a tour this summer, she knows I love the terrain. I’d love to be able to do it, especially if it’s a route I’ve created and know inside out!
Of course, the condition is that I have completed my production assignments. I have a schedule of deadlines to meet, depending on our markets, and I’m realistic about priorities.
What kind of itineraries are you working on for the 2024 season?
I’ve just finalized an itinerary for winter 2023 at Pourvoirie Mekoos, in the Hautes Laurentides. For the record, it’s the fruit of a Fam Tour I did with Perrine, in charge of purchasing at Toundra Voyages. I created the itinerary from A to Z, from field experience to logistics, which is really gratifying. Selling this product will be the icing on the Sundae (laughs).
The idea at Receptour is to be a source of ideas. On this itinerary, for example, instead of offering a multi-activity stay at Lac à l’Eau Claire, as all the agencies do, we’re differentiating ourselves. You always have to be on the lookout for something new and fresh.
That’s also what I like about Receptour: there’s a real brand image that’s here to stay. Off the beaten track is what interests people, and we’re capable of meeting that demand.
For the summer of 2024, I’m working on an itinerary linked to aboriginal tourism. Right now, the classic itinerary only includes a 1-hour visit to the Huron village of Wendake. It’s express and there are thousands of questions on the bus afterwards, because travelers haven’t had enough time to chat. My idea is to offer either a full day, or to include 2 experiences during the trip. You have to find the right balance between satisfying a certain demand and not falling into niche tourism.
Did you find it easy to fit in with the team?
I’ve had no trouble fitting in. The rest of the team see me as a relaxed, very Peace and Love girl, and I’m delighted because that’s the reality. I try to be an attentive manager for Kayla and Pauline, who are on placement with us. I’m not the type of person to get into a tizzy, as life is complex enough to manage.
The team dynamic is excellent! The girls sometimes ask me technical questions in the field, and for my part, I’m less familiar with some of the tools they help me with. We have great communication and complement each other very well. With all our different profiles, it’s a melting pot of skills at Receptour. The atmosphere is positive and caring.
I’m told you’re also a yoga teacher and share this passion with your colleagues. Is that what helps you to have such a positive attitude?
We can’t hide anything from you! (laughs).
I started yoga in business school, in my early twenties. My first teacher was a slightly elderly lady, very healthy and flexible, and I thought I wanted to be just like her when I grew up!
Covid was a big turning point in my life, and I asked myself a lot of questions about my aspirations and what I wanted to share with the world. The answer was obvious: the practice of yoga and its benefits. That’s why I started training to become a teacher in September 2021 and graduated in April 2022. Last summer, I gave classes in Montreal parks, and this winter I had a partnership with Décathlon. I share it with my colleagues once a week, on our lunch break, and it’s really fun.
I’ve got several lives in one! (laughs).
Now I understand better how challenging office life can be for you, as you’re pretty dynamic!
I’ve been this way since childhood. My parents went to the gym, and we always went for long rides on our bikes or rollerblades. That was my role model. As a child, I also did a lot of dancing.
When I moved to Quebec in 2018, I discovered all the outdoor activities and the pleasures of living green. I’m lucky enough to be in the office only 3 days a week, and the rest of the time I telework from the Laurentians. The pleasure of being able to turn off the computer at 5pm, get out of the house and go paddleboarding or mountain biking.
I’m really happy with my work/life balance!
Thank you Justine for this interview! What can we wish you for the future?
First of all, to continue to live a fulfilled life in harmony with myself.
And also success in realizing one of my dreams since my arrival. I’d like to buy an old Van, completely refurbish it and be able to take off on my vacations and weekends.
For the record, in 2018, I didn’t really know where to settle so I went on a road-trip in a Van across Quebec and Ontario for 2 months.
An unforgettable memory that gave me the Van Life virus! (laughs)