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It's hard to believe that the ever-youthful Stephanie Anevich has spent more than 50 years in the travel business. It's one of those 'Did you start when you were eight years old?' situations.
In this case it's true.
Anevich is a rare creature - a third-generation travel professional. Her grandparents on her mother's side owned Rogers Travel, a small agency in North Toronto. Her mother began working there part-time, then her father made the switch from shoe repair, joining his wife and parents in writing steamship tickets and round-the-world air tickets.
The young Anevich wasn't forced into travel child labour. She loved the agency, with its colourful posters and brochures, and at eight years old took two buses on her own to get there and help out.
Following another passion, Anevich studied fashion design at Toronto's Ryerson, but soon found herself gravitating back to Rogers Travel.
"I was meant to be a travel person," she says. "I love to travel and I love to work."
Anevich spent years working for her parents and grandparents, and eventually they worked for her as they moved toward retirement. She credits them, especially her parents, with encouraging the necessary skills to manage and grow a business.
"They gave me the courage to make decisions and the confidence to be fearless."
In 1984, Stephanie hired Brian Robertson at the agency, and a long-time personal and professional relationship commenced.
"Brian handled the corporate side and I worked the leisure side. We just kept slowly growing and changing."
The year 2000 was a milestone for Anevich and Robertson in a number of ways. They got married that year, and Rogers Travel became Vision 2000 Travel Group, along with new partners. "Lucky me, they both worked," Anevich says.
Over the next two decades, Vision grew by leaps and bounds, both organically and by acquisition, and in both corporate and leisure travel spheres.
With 'bigger is better' the travel industry mantra, especially in corporate travel, Anevich says the next logical step after becoming Canada's largest independent travel management company was to find a strong U.S. partner. It found that partner in Direct Travel Inc., one of the leading American travel management companies. Vision merged with Direct in spring 2017 and later that year, Vision and Direct joined forces with travel management company ATPI to form Direct ATPI Global Travel.
In 2021, Direct Travel ranked #9 on the Travel Weekly 'Power List' of travel agencies with more than $100 million in annual sales.
During the Vision years, the company became a member of luxury travel network Virtuoso, with Anevich as the lead contact. The relationship flourished, and in 2019, Anevich was bestowed the Rose of Siam Award, which annually honours a Virtuoso member who "embodies the spirit of its network, upholds the highest professional standards and has worked selflessly to promote Virtuoso."
The award has a deep history, going back more than 30 years when, during the organization's 1987 Symposium in Bangkok, the network's travel agency members bestowed the inaugural 'Ruby of Siam' on Virtuoso Chairman and CEO Matthew D. Upchurch.
Upchurch himself presented the Rose of Siam award to Anevich, saying the award's description fits "Stephanie Anevich to a tee. She embodies our shared ethos that we are all better together. It was meaningful to me when I won this award 30 years ago, and I'm so happy to share it with someone as deserving as Stephanie."
Anevich says she was deeply honoured to join a long list of travel industry greats by accepting the award.
"Ever since joining the Virtuoso network, I knew I was surrounded by extraordinary professionals and, most importantly, wonderful people. To be recognized with this award, amongst this group of industry colleagues, is humbling and I happily accept on behalf of all of the great travel advisors I have worked with over the years."
Over her five decades in the travel business, Anevich has seen the role of travel agent change massively. "In the early days, we just served anyone who came in, for any type of travel. We were a little nervous when the Internet came along, but it ended up making travel so complicated that travel agents changed from order-takers writing tickets to trusted advisors helping people have life-enhancing tailored travel experiences.
"It's truly a career now," she says, " and it's a role that's more important than ever."
Looking back, Anevich says the ability to adapt is the most important factor in travel industry success. "You have to be such a chameleon. Massive change is a constant, from how we get paid to how people want to travel. I'm proud of how we grew and thankful for all the wonderful colleagues I've had and places I've seen.
"It is an honour to have Stephanie inducted into the Canadian Travel Hall of Fame class of 2022," said John Kirk, founder and editor in chief of TravelPulse Canada and creator of the Canadian Travel Hall of Fame.
"Her contibution to the travel industry over her career is incredible. Her various roles and appointments to multiple boards and supplier advisory groups are a true testament to the value and insights she brings with her. If you know Stephanie, there is an endless supply of energy and enthusiasm," Kirk added.
Anevich still has one big thing on her travel bucket list - a trip to space. She was one of the early future astronauts to put down on a deposit for a space flight, and went through zero G and centrifuge training, which she calls one of her life's greatest thrills.
She had a similar reaction to being named to the Canadian Travel Hall of Fame. "It was such a thrill to be chosen by my peers," Anevich says.
A journalist by training and extensive experience, Bruce spent the early part of his career writing about business, fashion and...
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