DCI Honors its MICE Maverick, Pam BalakianDecember 19, 2023
A career in travel done right? Pam Balakian knows all about it, and as she retires from her role at Mondotels and DCI spanning 37 years, we look back on a career that brought fulfillment and memories that won’t soon fade for her.
Her DCI Origin Story
It all started with a high school trip to Italy where she fell under the enchantment of Rome and Florence, and their flavors. Pam’s professional life channeled this newfound love of travel as she took a role with hotel sales and marketing company Scott Calder International, representing hotels throughout Europe and the Caribbean. She then moved to Mondotels in 1986, a family-owned boutique sales and marketing agency representing hotels and CVBs worldwide.
When DCI acquired Mondotels in 2010, Pam, who still famously dislikes change, stayed on to sell meeting and incentive travel for clients worldwide including Milan and Scotland.
She never imagined in her wildest dreams, however, that she would have stayed on for thirteen years with DCI, but she doesn’t regret a moment of it. Pam found her spot in the agency, working her own sort of magic to create relationships with team members and clients alike.
Of MICE and Pam
Relationships were her super power. Pam always had – and still possesses – a unique ability to connect with anyone from interns to CEOs and to make them feel embraced. It’s what kept her so busy at DCI, working with planners and clients to organize events in destinations like Dubai and the US Virgin Islands. There was no one Pam couldn’t get along with, and it helped her land sales time and time again throughout her career in the MICE industry.
The work was, of course, still work. Retiring means letting go of the daily routine but also the tasks she won’t miss quite as much, like engaging with new technology. She’s seen so much evolution in tech during her career that has always posed a challenge.
She recalls starting in 1981 when there were no laptops or emails, using an overseas communication system called Telex that today’s new marketers wouldn’t recognize. Those were the days of flipping through a Rolodex to find her hand-written contacts in one easy-to-find place. She evolved, of course, but admits tech was never her forte, and it’s unlikely she’ll be booking an Excel course anytime soon!
Evolution, however, is a key word for Pam. Her biggest lesson working in MICE tourism all these years is that the industry is in perpetual motion. There are always new trends, new hot topics, and down cycles that pose challenges.
Pam wants her colleagues, old and new, to remain hopeful. She has seen firsthand how the industry always bounces back, usually coming back stronger. She’s seen it through 9/11 and more recently through the pandemic, but bookings always returned.
Travel Made Her Do It
Pam’s role opened a door into new worlds, allowing her to travel on familiarization trips near and far, experiencing things that most people barely dream of doing. It was this passion for places that kept her in the game, even while facing a furlough during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maybe it was taking a helicopter ride over the Great Ocean Road in Australia while on a trip supporting Melbourne that she remembers the most. Or perhaps it was being the first to conquer her fears and go parasailing while exploring the south of France on a work excursion. Then again, it’s difficult for her to forget the time she met film star Sean Connery while visiting a hotel at St. Andrews Links, the birthplace of golf.
Pam prefers not to pick a favorite. Whether it was boating excursions along the coast of Cannes, thrilling motorcycle trips on Australian highways, or picking a crustacean from the sea for dinner in the U.S. Virgin Islands, she always managed to find herself in a memorable situation.
A smattering of high end and Michelin starred restaurants along the way didn’t make it too difficult to stay in the game, either!
Words of Wisdom
Pam has always enjoyed working with younger colleagues, to help them learn the MICE industry through her eyes. What she started doing in 1981 remains true today. She champions the need to create relationships with clients and buyers – and not just by following them on Instagram.
For Pam, nothing beats a lunch or drink date to discuss business, but she also encourages new professionals to think outside the box and challenge themselves. Everyone has their super power, and Pam said finding one’s strength and accentuating it is what’s most important to succeed in the long run.
On Tap for Pam?
Despite her thoughts on change, retirement will be a welcomed one for many ways, Pam said. Retirement means spending more time with loved ones and dedicating more time to exploring what’s new on the culinary scene. And of course, she is focused on prioritizing travel, especially with a lack of it in her life since the pandemic.
Pam is a self-described foodie. Coworkers know she’s never short of a restaurant recommendation if you express an interest in cuisine. She’s excited to start her own food blog to share her passion. A political activist, she’s also looking forward to putting her newfound free time to use for causes that matter most to her.
Colleagues will certainly miss Pam’s presence during the workday, and clients will miss her unique knack at bringing people together. But Pam has left her mark globally. She’s proof positive that a career built on real human connections and compassion is a winning strategy, and DCI’s next generation of MICE professionals will continue her legacy.
They just might do it on Teams instead of via Telex.