Who We Are

BAN-NI-KIN (noun)

1. Slang. Small tin cup.
2. Niche travel and tourism group enhancing the business of small operators, emerging destinations and hotel properties.

Small cup. Big ideas.

Bannikin is a Toronto and Hong Kong-based travel and tourism consultancy dedicated to enhancing the businesses of niche-focused tour operators, destinations and lodging providers worldwide. We define ‘niche’ as unique and experiential travel, ranging from active and outdoor adventure to culinary and cultural experiences.

Our clients appreciate that we solve their problem of limited resources such as time, money, sales networks, etc. by providing tourism-specific, highly specialized support in four key areas: Media Relations, Trade Representation, Marketing and Experience Design & Destination Development. We act as your in-house team, working with you to reach your business goals. The benefit to you? Having your product development, marketing, B2B sales, and media relations needs handled by one sharp company.

With our first-hand knowledge of both the experiential North American and Asian markets, we can secure and nurture relationships between you and tour operators, design jaw-dropping press trips, create killer website content, build your social media network, market your business at trade shows and industry events, create evergreen sustainable tourism plans and policy – and the list goes on.

Bannikin was built on our great respect for travel-minded visionaries who provide the utmost experiences in the wildest parts of the planet. In a worn-out, dog-eared copy of the Newfoundland dictionary somewhere, you would discover that Bannikin simply means ‘small tin cup.’ But to us, it represents experiencing travel in a real way, with a local perspective. With our combined 50+ years of experience, Bannikin knows what needs to come together to turn a travel company into the travel company, and a place into a destination.

Learn more about what we do!

  • Jillian DickensJillian DickensDIRECTOR

    Jillian Dickens

    DIRECTOR

    B-Journ, Langara College, Vancouver, 2001

    Jillian Dickens is a specialty destination development and media relations professional with more than 12 years’ experience working with experiential tourism brands and emerging destinations. As Bannikin Director, Jillian leads the Media Relations and Marketing departments and co-leads the Destination Development department, managing clients including Exodus Travels, Tourism New Brunswick and Adventure Canada.

    Under her watch, Bannikin’s clients have enjoyed huge success, both in new travel trade relationships won and consistent feature coverage in Canada’s top newspapers and magazines. Recent trade successes include landing new partnerships with REI Adventures, Wilderness Travel and Adventures Abroad, ultimately securing legacy business that will generate revenue and arrivals for decades to come. Recent media wins include the New York Times, L.A. Times and Globe and Mail, each ultimately securing direct bookings and arrivals for her clients.

    Jillian is gifted at identifying untapped markets and market segments, and converting these into arrivals and sales. Prior to Bannikin, Jillian headed-up the global tour operator sales and media relations departments for a multi-country cruise line specializing in Aboriginal culture and Arctic explorations. Here she opened the company’s trade links up to the new markets of South Korea, China, Japan and Australia, resulting in a 20% increase in arrival numbers year after year.

    In the mid-2000s Jillian was Marketing and Communications Manager for the DMO Nunavut Tourism. Here she increased global media exposure by 30% through smart media relations strategy, and crafting ahead of the curve story ideas. She helped overcome the organization’s relationship challenges with the local government through headline grabbing projects and events including the Four Hosts First Nations Olympic Summit and cultural events and concerts enhancing community pride. The result was public and government recognition of the DMOs unparalleled value to their economy.

    Prior to her career in tourism, Jillian was a newspaper journalist, reporting on issues ranging from politics and the economy to crime and entertainment. She continues to do freelance travel writing for Canada’s top travel outlets, including enRoute, the Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, Canada’s most widely read publication.

    Board Positions:

    Women In Travel, Current Committee Member

     

  • Shannon GuihanShannon GuihanDIRECTOR

    Shannon Guihan

    DIRECTOR

    Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK, MSc Tourism & Environmental Management, 2004
    Acadia University, Nova Scotia, Canada, Bachelor of Recreation Management, 2001

    A tourism development expert, Shannon has more than 15 years of international experience working at multiple levels of tourism development and delivery. As Bannikin Director, Shannon leads the Trade Representation department and co-leads the Destination Development department, managing clients including The TreadRight Foundation and Ontario’s SouthWest.

    Shannon’s clients have benefited from her guidance and in-depth knowledge of both niche and large-scale tourism models. Recent client successes include the development and implementation of strategic trade relations strategies, resulting in legacy partnerships, and increased, consistent revenue. With extensive product development experience, and a strong focus on sustainable tourism, Shannon is often called on to craft destination experiences targeted at the Canadian, US and UK markets.

    As a former guide and Operations Manager for several up-scale tour operators, Shannon started her career as a sea kayak guide in Newfoundland. Shannon has developed product and managed operations in countries including Iceland, Greenland, China, Peru, Canada and the US.

    Prior to starting Bannikin, Shannon was brought on by Roadtrips Inc., to lead MF&T, a division of Roadtrips, in partnership with Michelin North America. This role saw Shannon identify ground operators and develop culinary tour product in Italy, France, Spain and parts of the US that featured Michelin Red Guide Chefs, their establishments and highlighted local suppliers and other culinary features of a particular destination.

    Client engagements see Shannon frequently called on as a World Travel & Tourism Council small committee member, and heavily engaged with organisations including the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, The Travel Foundation and Tourism Cares on the issue of sustainable tourism development. Her end goal is to always build smart destinations and businesses that recognise sustainability and how it impacts their intended market.

    Shannon holds an MSC in Tourism and Environmental Management, where she focused on integrating the principals of sustainability into tourism businesses and destination development work. Her undergraduate degree in Recreation Management focused on outdoor activities as they integrate with the community and local businesses.

    Board Positions
    Transportation Options Ontario (Cycle Tourism Development), Past Board Member
    Sustainable Travel International – Canada, Past Board Member

  • Iris SerbanescuIris SerbanescuMANAGER, TRADE DEVELOPMENT

    Iris Serbanescu

    MANAGER, TRADE DEVELOPMENT

    Diploma, Tourism Management, Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, 2011
    Bachelor of Business Administration, Wilfrid Laurier University, 2009

    An experiential travel trade development expert, Iris’s knowledge of market trends and her reputation with key players in the trade industry has afforded her clients consistent success. From strategic sales planning to creative targeted outreach and unique concepts for positioning, Iris is highly proficient at forging sought-after partnerships for her clients and takes a consultative role in the execution of travel experiences. Key markets Iris has forged relationships in include North America, the UK, Germany and Australia.

    In her role as Account Manager, Iris has spearheaded efforts to bring awareness to under-the-radar destinations through strategic product/experience consultation and unique positioning. She has collaborated with the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation to create an exclusive stance for Wilderness North (Northern Ontario destination lodge) amongst competitors in Ontario and led their infrastructure and experience revamp efforts to cater to niche markets.

    In support of New Brunswick Tourism’s strategy to promote their adventure travel experiences, Iris worked closely in a consultative position with the Ministry to plan, solicit interest amongst trade, and successfully execute the first-ever adventure travel FAM trip in the province. The trip garnered widespread interest amongst participants to develop the destination as the next adventure travel region in Atlantic Canada.

  • Zach VanasseZach VanasseACCOUNT MANAGER, MEDIA & MARKETING

    Zach Vanasse

    ACCOUNT MANAGER, MEDIA & MARKETING

    Bachelor of Arts, Professional Writing & Translation, Université de Sherbrooke, 2008

    Zach Vanasse is a bilingual (English and French) marketing and media relations specialist with experience working on both sides of the media table. As a former consumer travel and travel trade journalist and editor for print and digital publications, he has an insider’s knowledge of the North American travel industry and its leaders having collaborated with a diverse array of trade partners across multiple spheres.

    Before joining Bannikin as an Account Manager, he served as an editor with PAX News and PAX Magazine where he worked with industry leaders and innovators, gaining deep insight into the inner workings of the North American travel trade. As a journalist he developed personal relationships with many of the travel industry’s thought leaders, directors and industry influencers. He was also deeply engaged with the travel agent community, covering the vast majority of travel agent focused events and conferences both at home and abroad, in the interest of maintaining a consistent and constant finger on the pulse of the industry. In his role as editor, he has collaborated with a variety of industry organizations ranging from tourism boards to tour operators.

    In his time at Bannikin he has worked with sustainability organizations around the world, helping clients develop give-back programs, create green initiatives, garner recognition for industry leading performances, and develop sustainability partnerships.

    He also serves as a founding board member of the Young Travel Professionals – Toronto chapter, a role that has seen him speak at a variety of industry conferences, such as TravelMarket Reports’ Travel MarketPlace Toronto.

  • Pete WhishPete WhishACCOUNT MANAGER, TRADE & DESTINATION DEVELOPMENT

    Pete Whish

    ACCOUNT MANAGER, TRADE & DESTINATION DEVELOPMENT

    Honours Degree Tourism Administration, Brock University 2009

    With an extensive track record of success in international and domestic markets, Pete’s experience brings a unique perspective to the Bannikin team. With a stamp-filled passport, Pete has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia North America and Africa.

    A combination of international experience with Norwegian Cruises and corporate travel experience at the Hogg Robinson Group has given Pete a unique scope of understanding among the many facets of the travel industry.

    Prior to joining Bannikin, Pete’s involvement in active luxury travel allowed him to develop long-standing relationships with many notable DMCs, operators and hotels worldwide.

    With a passion for discovering the latest and greatest within the industry, the role of Account Manager, Trade & Destination Development is perfectly aligned with Pete’s skill set. Pete’s clients include Futurismo Azores Adventures, Destination British Columbia, Neotropic and Wilderness Scotland.

  • Katie MarshallKatie MarshallACCOUNT MANAGER, MEDIA RELATIONS

    Katie Marshall

    ACCOUNT MANAGER, MEDIA RELATIONS

    Honours Ontario Graduate Certificate - Public Relations, Humber College, Toronto, 2011
    Honours Combined Bachelor of Arts, Dramatic Arts and Communication, Media and Film, University of Windsor, 2010

    Katie Marshall is an accomplished media relations and marketing professional having spent the last half decade developing and nurturing relationships with top media contacts across North America. Armed with degrees in both Public Relations and theatre, Katie puts her expertly-honed storytelling skills to good use, creatively pitching stories and connecting clients with her extensive network of travel editors and freelancers to generate impactful media coverage.

    With a strong passion for travel and a keen ability to spot travel trends, Katie specializes in developing and executing all aspects of media outreach campaigns to increase media exposure and support strategic marketing initiatives. Through relationship building and expert story idea development, Katie has secured coverage in North America’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, The Globe and Mail, National Post.

    Before joining Bannikin, Katie served as PR and Media Relations Manager for a luxury active tour-operator and supported media outreach for clients in the food and wellness industry with a Toronto-based boutique PR agency.

  • Ashley BowesAshley BowesACCOUNT COORDINATOR

    Ashley Bowes

    ACCOUNT COORDINATOR

    Humber College - Film and Television Production

    Ashley Bowes is a media relations and digital marketing specialist, with a creative background in writing and video production. After studying Film and Television production in Toronto, she moved abroad to Edinburgh and landed her first marketing gig promoting comedic acts during the world’s largest arts festival.

    Prior to joining Bannikin, Ashley’s passion for travel and adventure has lead her to some far-flung corners of the earth, fuelling her drive to create compelling global stories and digital content. She specializes in growing the online presence for several travel brands and has developed her own personal brand to promote sustainable tourism and outdoor adventures. Ashley managed the global social media for Young Travel Professionals and previously produced digital media for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

    Ashley has extensive experience travelling across Australia, Iceland, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. When she’s taking a break from all things digital, she can be best found outside with a camera in tow – documenting the adventure.

  • Natasha MartinNatasha MartinMANAGING DIRECTOR - ASIA

    Natasha Martin

    MANAGING DIRECTOR - ASIA

    Concordia University - BA Honors in African History
    Master of Tourism Administration - George Washington University

    Natasha is a senior marketing consultant with a decade of experience in the adventure tourism sector. She has worked for destinations, associations and tourism companies around the world from Greenland to Namibia, to help create inspiration at each stage of the customer journey – and ensure that tourism development supports environmental conservation, cultural heritage preservation and enhances the lives of local residents.

    As the Managing Director – Asia, Natasha leads Bannikin’s outreach to the adventure trade and consumers in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China, helping our clients reach new, high-value markets from the biggest tourist emitting countries in the world.

    Prior to joining Bannikin, Natasha worked in development consulting on projects for donors such as the World Bank, Millennium Challenge Account, the Office of the Quartet, DFID and USAID, as well as directly for national and regional governments including Myanmar, Peru, India and industry associations.

    She is an AdventureEDU educator, and frequently lectures on the topic of social media for tourism. She has delivered marketing workshops in Namibia, Myanmar, Peru, Ethiopia and Uganda on tourism marketing.

    Before entering the world of adventure tourism, Natasha was an English Teacher in Japan, an assistant to a Canadian senator and an intern at OCHA in Nairobi.

    Natasha speaks English, French and Spanish and is based in Hong Kong.