Travel, they say, gets in your blood. Betty Sullivan can only agree. She and her sister, Pat, joined Collette in 1964, a couple of years after her brother, Dan, bought the company, with just two members of staff! So this April she has spent 50 years working in travel for the same company, which is now somewhat bigger than when she joined as a young woman, a cause for celebration for sure.
After an amazing start helping out at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, which she reports was a blast and an experience beyond comparison, Betty became a tour escort, what we’d now call a tour manager. She loved that too, taking coach loads of people on a wide range of trips from just one day in the local area to tours that might last up to thirty days, exploring the Pacific Northwest. It’s the human interaction Betty so enjoys, chatting to people up and down the aisle, joining in a sing-along and sharing the travel experience together. In fact she is such a fan of coach tours, that Betty recommends that we all should take one as a fabulous way to see the USA, Canada and beyond.
Betty has found tour guiding huge fun, with good hotels, good food and good groups of interesting people. She reckons it is a great training for any young graduate in how to deal with, laugh with and understand people. In a nutshell – it’s a great lesson in human nature. Wherever else, she said, would you have so much fun and get paid for it too?
Betty returned to part-time work at the company since her retirement from the retail offices in Braintree, Massachusetts. Her nephew Dan (Collette’s present President and CEO) asked her to work just a few days a week in the wholesale side of the business in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and this is what she now does in the Air department.
In her 50 years at Collette, Betty has seen huge changes and naturally one of these is technology, which has altered everything. Airline ticketing, for example, used to be worked out with the help of enormous tomes, whereas now it’s sorted with the press of one or two buttons. The evolution of technology has increased efficiency and been terrific as a whole for driving the business forward. Interestingly, travellers are becoming more savvy on computers as well, which has made them more discerning guests; they have higher expectations and are generally just more worldly. As they have changed, Collette also has changed to meet their needs. Betty is proud to have witnessed this evolution take place both with how Collette operates its business and how its clients have come to expect their experience to be.
So where does this veteran of the travel industry like to visit on her own holidays, having travelled to all seven continents? Betty is a great fan of Italy and finds Paris very romantic. Ireland, especially Donegal and Killarney, is a favourite and she recently revisited Belfast on a Sullivan clan holiday, finding the city had hugely changed since her tour guiding days when there were tanks, barbed wire and riots – certainly nothing like the marvellous Titanic Experience that’s around today. Betty’s trip to Antarctica as a passenger, rather than guide, was a real travelling highlight, taking in parts of South America, too. These best loved spots are a suitably eclectic mix from around the world.
And the must-know question: where is Betty headed to next? She is keen to travel to Russia, particularly St Petersburg, so maybe a river cruise on the Volga is in the offering. And in stark contrast, she would also like to visit the Lake District in England for the first time and to revisit Scotland. Nearer to her own home, a trip to Mount Rushmore and the surrounding area is on the list. Betty has a yen to tour Sicily, a great island with so much to see.
Of course Collette celebrated this doyenne of travel, who has by her own admission, struggled to leap into the 21st century. Rather than the computer Betty was nervously anticipating at the presentation for her fifty years’ service, she received a brand new Chevrolet Impala, complete with bells and whistles. So with her new car, gazelle-like, to be mastered, the extraordinary eighty-something Betty Sullivan continues to enjoy each day according to her personal motto: travel with the right attitude … then everything is an adventure!