Qualify people carefully and thoughtfully

Listen with intent, and understand their priorities and preferences so that you can design an experience to suit their individual needs. Take the time to educate them as to what they don’t even realize they want or need.

Thankfully, the world is open for travel once again. Traveling can broaden our horizons and make space for people to become more open-minded. How can travel give us the opportunity for personal growth? What are some ways that travel can help us become better human beings? As a part of our series about “How Traveling Can Help Us Become Better Human Beings”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle Riddle, CEO of Inspired Travel Group.

The founder of the Vancouver-based preeminent niche travel based agency, Inspired Travel Group, Danielle Riddle’s extensive work in the travel sector lead her to create a corporate travel agency that humanizes their clientele, providing custom, bespoke solutions to their travel needs. She has appeared on several radio and TV programs, sharing her travel industry expertise.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Over the years working in the industry we witnessed the negative transition from a skilled, service based industry, to merely a volume based one. And although with the increasing presence of mass market travel booking engines, this was becoming the minimum expectation of consumers, we believed that it would only be a matter of time before frustration due to lack of service and expertise, would start to outweigh the convenience and price point offered by online providers. Our goal was to proactively swing that pendulum and prioritize service from the start, providing a niche, personalized and consultative travel management solution. This particularly resonates with corporate travelers, as it is integral to their company’s success, that their travel advisor can provide a seamless, skilled, and efficient service, ultimately improving their productivity and the bottom line.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The most interesting and rather surreal experience I can share, was meeting Roger Federer whilst on vacation in the Maldives. My business and life partner, Max Hansen and I had been invited to a wine appreciation dinner being hosted in the stunning underwater restaurant on the island, and it so happened that joining us for this experience was Roger Federer, and his lovely family. We had the absolute privilege of spending time getting to know Roger and his wife Mirka that evening and furthermore throughout our vacation, which was just amazing. Meeting a person like Roger, and learning first hand of his passion and genuine love of his craft, is one of the most motivating and inspiring experiences, that encourages you to push forward and chase your dreams with even more tenacity. Getting to meet your idols is always exciting and memorable, however doing it in an intimate, organic setting, away from their paparazzi filled lifestyle is not only rare and unique in itself, but is truly remarkable. As major tennis fans, it was undoubtedly one of our most treasured and memorable travel experiences, that still makes us pinch ourselves to this day!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In the early days we were so eager to please, that we would pander to traveler’s requests, even when they were sometimes inadvisable. A good example is “Dr” clients. Often these travelers would insist on us using their Dr. title on tickets, even when they were PHD’s not MD’s. You see the traveler‘s want their title from a recognition perspective, but the thing to be very aware of is; you WILL get called upon should there be a medical emergency onboard, and subsequently will then have to have the awkward conversation of not being “that” kind of doctor, and looking somewhat of a fool..! Nowadays we simply insist on ticketing the way we know is in the best interest of the traveler, regardless, in order to avoid these odd situations.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I would have to say our camaraderie as business partners is the relationship I have to be most grateful for throughout our journey as business owners. Being an entrepreneur is such an arduous and challenging feat, and tough times are inevitable. So having a partner that can intuitively pick up the pieces when times are tough, is absolutely priceless, and has been imperative to the overall success of Inspired. When one is down, the other jumps into action and takes the reins, and this is what makes the difference. We can motivate and push each other out of our comfort zones, in ways in which ourselves as individuals may struggle to achieve. And I believe this unique and rare synergy is our driving force, our strongest asset, and our greatest gift to be thankful for.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

Our point of difference has always been people & service. In an industry that has been saturated with a quantity over quality and self-serve approach for several decades now, our focus has always been simple; To bring a human approach back to travel management and always prioritize service over volume. Humanizing the travel experience is so important to ensure the right solutions are being provided, based on the specific needs of the company and the traveler themselves. Pairing our clients with an individual, dedicated travel advisor ensures this personalized attention at every turn. This is a massive advantage on the bigger, faceless corporations we are in competition with. Our emergency line is also run in house, so clients are always speaking with an experienced corporate travel specialist. As a package, this ensures that any issues faced on the road are dealt with quickly and effectively.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

After years working in this relatively antiquated industry, we had the experience and insight to recognize the need for innovation and a new approach. The industry had quickly become a mass market, predominantly automated system, and the cracks were becoming more and more visible. Businesses were struggling with managing the complexity and demands posed by corporate travel, and yet the only resources to turn to were faceless, automated, booking engines that simply cannot replace a real person. We identified a need, and as a result of our knowledge and passion, knew we had the right concept to make a change for the better.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

I think most of our competitors are playing catch-up to be honest. The industry post Covid has seen a dramatic decrease in the quality of service when it comes to travel suppliers, airlines, etc. So having a people focused travel provider on board, has become more important now than possibly ever before. Thankfully for Inspired, our business model and approach has been the key ingredient that travelers have been seeking and desperately hoping for post covid. We predicted and could see this need for service growing exponentially prior to, but the pandemic ultimately sped up the process and compounded the need even more. Travelers are more cautious, hesitant, and concerned about the lack of knowledge, support, and service they can obtain as an individual. So knowing you have an expert by your side, someone who’s got you covered every step of the way, is crucial right now. The positive for us, is we’re already decades ahead of the game!

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

This is a precarious question I’d say, and a difficult one to answer. Reason being, there really is no “perfect vacation experience”, as it’s so subjective, and the variables are endless. But what I would say is that there are some key elements to achieving the ultimate vacation experience, whatever that may be. And it comes down to adequately qualifying the traveler, and really focusing on humanizing the planning experience. Whether it be for work or pleasure, travel is a very emotional experience. It’s so important to understand the person you’re working with and tailor the experience to their specific preferences, likes/dislikes, etc. Addressing the nuances surrounding flights and connections, layovers that can hinder portions of your trip due to exhaustion and sleep deprivation, knowing the weather patterns and when to and not to travel etc. the list goes on. It’s all about precise and succinct planning and preparation, diving deep into the destination and knowing the tips and tricks that will make the difference between a good (or bad) vacation, and an amazing one.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

Wellness has become an extremely important element when it comes to our service offerings towards our corporate clientele, as people are becoming more aware of the need for and importance to recognize mental health impacts of work and travel. We have a strong focus on educating our clients as to how to mitigate stress and unnecessary pressure on staff by developing practical and carefully curated travel policies to promote and incorporate wellness effectively within their organization. Understanding the importance of being well rested upon arriving into a city off the back of a long haul flight, is very important to their bottom line and retaining happy, healthy staff. We know when and why it’s important for them to consider Business Class travel, what routes offer lie-flat beds for adequate sleep, how to construct airfares to avoid unnecessary layovers and long, exhausting connections, etc. It’s this insider and professional knowledge that is integral to the overall well being of travelers.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

Qualify people carefully and thoughtfully

Listen with intent, and understand their priorities and preferences so that you can design an experience to suit their individual needs. Take the time to educate them as to what they don’t even realize they want or need.

Design curated and unique experiences based on individual preferences

People will say, I want to go here because my friend went and loved it… or a celebrity Instagrammed about it etc. The issue is, we’re all different and have different desires and interests. Simply following the crowd is never the answer. We need to dig deep and design curated experiences that always feel one of a kind. This will undoubtedly keep them coming back for more, again and again.

Spark interest by raising ideas for future travel

If you consult on a genuine, human level, the conversation will naturally evolve into the discussion of future travel and ideas. This provides a great opportunity to inspire wanderlust, and plant the seed for future trips. This way, when they return, and start dreaming of their next adventure, your name will be the first to come to mind.

Genuinely get to know and understand your clients on a human level

From a Corporate perspective, understanding your client on a deeper level is crucial in solidifying your position as their go-to travel advisor. Business travel is fast paced, stressful, and intense, so knowing that there’s someone by your side that you can turn to, who truly understands your needs, preferences, and priorities, is essential in ensuring a seamless and calm travel experience, every time. Human connection and empathy is the key to a successful corporate travel relationship.

Always follow up

Gaining post travel feedback is crucial in obtaining and maintaining positive and withstanding relationships with your clients. By becoming genuinely invested in people’s travel experiences, following up on once they’ve arrived home, listening carefully to their feedback etc. it will ultimately result in people automatically turning to you as their right hand man, for all of their travel needs.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

How we can give back to our clients and our community in general was a major talking point when we began developing our services. One way we tackled this challenge was through the development of an in house rewards program; Inspirations. Clients earn points every time they use our services and can redeem these points in a variety of ways. The two categories we’re most proud of with our redemption options are the ability for clients to lower their incentive costs by obtaining free gift certificates and experiences their hard working staff can benefit from along with the option to use the points towards a donation to their favorite charity. By having this program in place and encouraged to be used, we’ve allowed our clients partners and their charitable programs to benefit drastically from an expense that would normally have no such attachment.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The concept of well being and finding what makes you happy is a justified talking point in today’s world. While this is undoubtedly positive and should definitely not be taken for granted, the method of this message could be adjusted to better suit its desired outcome. Similar to the proverb, give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day but teach a man to fish and he’ll never be hungry, this line of thinking needs to be applied to the concept of well being and happiness. People shouldn’t focus on the act of being happy but on what outcomes they can create that will provide sustained happiness. By challenging yourself to solve problems, build mechanisms and incite change, you can create outcomes that were never thought possible, that the satisfaction associated with can lead to much longer lasting satisfaction, well being and happiness than just thinking about what could make you happy as short term or immediate gratification.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Here’s a link to our Blog with some interesting stories: https://www.inspiredtravelgroup.ca/travel-news/

LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielle-riddle-22920414/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.