Mary LaRocque found her passion for helping people’s travel dreams come true early and strives to stoke that passion in others through mentorship.
Her first brush with the industry came when she was a teenager working summers on Hill Island for Ontario Travel, helping provide travellers directions and destination tips.
She quickly realized how much she liked helping people make the most of their vacations and attended Sir Sandford Fleming College for the travel and tourism program in 1981 where she also got a taste for volunteering with the Student Administrative Council. Before her college course was even finished, LaRocque was offered a job with Dawn Travel, which began her career working for various travel agencies in Peterborough.
When the opportunity presented itself to own her own business she jumped at it in 2004, purchasing what is now Marlin Travel (formerly Thomas Cook) agency and she has never looked back. This year marks 38 years for LaRocque in the travel industry, 18 as a business owner.
LaRocque prides herself in sharing her years of experience and knowledge with the next generation of travel enthusiasts.
“I have the gift of gab, I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone a number of times,” she jokes.
She has mentored many Fleming students over the years, as well as accepted co-op students from local schools and has spoken at events.
“It’s really important to foster and mentor youth so they stay in the community, they work in the community and are active members in the community.”
The businessperson also serves on the franchise advisory committee for Marlin Travel, likewise sharing her expertise with others in her field.
LaRocque is a member of the Fleming College alumni committee, is a Women’s Business Network member and past president, and past chair of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. LaRocque won the Women in Business Award in 2008 and the Business Citizen of the Year Award in 2014. Through her business, she also proudly supports a range of sports teams, including Kawartha Komets special needs hockey and the Peterborough Petes.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic was undoubtedly terrible for the tourism industry, LaRocque was undeterred, leaning into a new business model with her Travel n Style Boutique, selling clothes and travel-related items and even helping another franchisee develop an additional revenue stream by creating a boutique of their own.
“Not only was the boutique a way to make money through the pandemic, but it was a mental lifesaver,” she says.
Through the trying past two years, LaRocque notes that her staff of three have been a huge source of support and they are all hopeful for a return to some sort of normal in the near future.
“Helping people achieve their dream destination has been absolutely incredible,” she notes, reflecting on her career so far.
“Just seeing the expressions on their face, when they see their first lion on safari while I’m doing a tour is just priceless.”
The Junior Achievement of Northern and Eastern Ontario Business Hall of Fame induction ceremony will recognize 11 exceptional business leaders during its seventh annual ceremony May 26 at the Loomex Group hangar at the Peterborough Airport. In addition to LaRocque, inductees include Vanessa Oake Hogan from Century 21 United Realty Inc., Eric and Marlaine Bennett from Bennett’s Home Furniture and Mattresses, Ken Blow and John and Glenda Lavery from KADEX Aero Supply, Ray Kapoor, formerly of The Black Horse Pub, Peter McLean of Simon & Associates Inc., David and Kimberly Morello of Morello’s Your Independent Grocer, Peter Norris formerly of Holiday Ford, Bill Lockington from LLF Lawyers LLP, Michael Santos of Mecedes-Benz Peterborough and Ian Scates of Central Smith.