Meet Lisa Mallett: Niagara Falls Travel Advisor

Lisa Mallett has a passion for travel and exploring new places. She decided it was time to take this passion further by creating a travel blog and becoming a travel advisor based in Niagara Falls, Canada. Due to the pandemic, she’s discovering more about her home and sharing her discoveries with her readers. Once traveling can begin in earnest again, her goal is to build custom travel itineraries for private or group trips to explore Ontario’s Niagara Region. 

Wander, explore, and discover to fuel your soul with travel” — Lisa Mallett 

Meet Glamma Travel, aka Lisa. She is a fifty-something Canadian grandmother who loves being a travel advisor. But don’t judge Lisa by her age or the fact she has grandchildren, as she is not your average grandma. 

You mentioned in Living in a Tourist Destination that you reside in Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side. How would an American visitor reach Canada’s Falls area?”

Getting to Niagara Falls is relatively easy; if you are flying we have two international airports within a two-hour distance of the Falls. Toronto Pearson Airport is the closest to Ontario, Canada. There are many transport companies that can provide travel to Niagara. If you live in the USA, you can fly domestic to Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Then, either rent a car and cross the border in Buffalo to get to Niagara Falls. Alternatively, you can arrange a car service to transport you over. Of course, if you happen to live within driving distance, you can use your own vehicle to cross over one of our three international border bridges.

US and Canada Border Bridge

When is the best time to visit and why?”

As a travel advisor and local, Niagara is an ideal location any time of the year, depending on what you are looking to experience. Our most popular tourist season is in the summer. During the months of June through September, the temperatures are warm and you can try out outdoor activities in comfort. If you are looking for a quieter time to visit, you may enjoy the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. You can take advantage of more reasonable prices and fewer crowds. We have plenty of activities that you can take advantage of during these seasons and you may find more reasonable prices and less crowding. Winter is cold in Niagara, but if you love snow, it is very beautiful to see.

What seasonal differences are there in terms of things to do in and around Niagara?”

If you are visiting during the summer season, you will be able to experience all the major attractions in Niagara Falls and the surrounding area. There are land and water options, wine tours, and all of the beautiful floral displays will be in full bloom in Niagara Parks. The shoulder seasons offer similar activities to summer. However, the weather may be more of an issue with a wider spectrum of conditions depending on Mother Nature’s mood. During winter, there will be limited outdoor activities. Nonetheless, it is ice wine harvest time and there is a local Winter Festival of Lights.

Niagara Falls in winter

If people plan to spend more time in the area than a day trip, what would you recommend checking out close to Niagara?”

Niagara Falls is right next door to Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is where many of our wineries are located. The small village itself is so picturesque, you will feel as if you have stepped back into the Victorian era. The Niagara Parkway is the route between Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, and it is a beautiful scenic drive as well as a must-see in my humble opinion. Toronto is only about one-and-a-half to two hours north and can easily be driven to by following our QEW highway. The largest city in Ontario, Toronto rests on the shore of one of our Great Lakes, Lake Ontario. It is an international centre of business, finance, arts, and culture. If you have the time, it is worth spending a couple of days or more visiting. As a travel advisor, I recommend it!

A nighttime photo of Toronto

Foreign tourists are conspicuous by their absence in the Falls at the moment. However, to what extent has the shortfall been made up by those on staycations?”

Niagara Falls generally counts on about 50% of the tourism revenue to come from American citizens. With the international border being closed since March 2020, Niagara Falls has tried very hard to promote itself as a close-to-home staycation option during the months that our pandemic numbers were more under control. Ontario citizens actually do makeup about 70% of the 14 million tourists who visit Niagara Falls in a typical year. However, they only provide about 25% of the tourism revenue. I am not aware of how much revenue Niagara Falls was able to produce in the 2020 season as of yet, but it was most definitely less than a typical year. Until the border reopens, I assume that this trend will continue.

How much is Niagara a victim of its own success? What environmental damage has been done by the mass of visitors rocking up on a daily basis?”

Sadly, tourism definitely has had some negative effects on our environment mostly due to pollution emitted from so many vehicles. Wildlife is rare except in green areas. At one time, there was toxic chemical waste as well as sewage generated from tourists being legally dumped into the Niagara River. I am not completely sure if this practice has been stopped or lessened but I do know there has been an awareness of it made public in recent years.

Niagara Falls Rainbow

How have the Falls adapted to becoming more ecologically sustainable?”

The environment has become a much bigger focus in recent years. Niagara is trying to do its part to help. The role of the City now is to “maintain, preserve, and promote good stewardship of the natural resources within the City for existing and future needs and to protect the diversity and interdependence of these natural areas to maintain and improve their natural functions,” (City of Niagara Falls Official Plan, Section 3).

You mentioned you live in Wine Country. What dishes would you recommend accompanying these vintages? Are there many local gastronomic specialties?”

We have many vintages in Niagara, so this would be difficult to cover in just one paragraph.  Any winery host that you visit for tastings will be happy to suggest food pairings for the individual wines. We actually have a couple of times a year where the wineries all offer wine and food pairing tours. Many of the wineries also have restaurants where they offer a complete food and wine pairing menu. 

Food and wine pairing

What are some of the most outrageous questions tourists ask?”

As Niagara Falls residents, we have heard some pretty outrageous questions. Here are some of the best:

“Do you ever turn the Falls off?”

“Are we in Canada?”

How would you describe the people who live in Canada? What distinguishes them from other countries?”

I would describe the people in Canada as friendly, respectful, and accommodating for the most part. Many would also call us apologetic. Canadians are unique people, especially when compared to our closest neighbor, the USA.

Our government is very different. We are a Commonwealth country led by a Prime Minister, meaning we are friendlier and more accepting of outsiders. On the whole, I believe that Canadians are more educated about the US than US visitors are about Canada, sometimes embarrassingly so. We have a different currency, our national languages are English and French, we have entirely different healthcare and school systems, and even the foods we have in common are not that similar. So even though we border the USA, Canada is a very unique country of its own.

You can find more information and book future travel to Niagara through Lisa Mallett’s travel advisor website. She is ready to help plan the perfect itinerary for Niagara, Ontario, Canada and their stunning wine country.

by Leesa Truesdell

Working During a Pandemic: A New Job

Jonathan Metrick

By Leesa Truesdell

Since Jonathan’s last interview, he’s been undeniably busy. That’s to be expected for someone living Jonathan’s life. At the end of 2019, he accepted a new role at a different company located in Toronto, Canada. Jonathan spends his time traveling back and forth between Toronto and New York City, New York. Since he’s switched jobs, Jonathan’s traveled back to NYC for work and some fun. He’s currently back to working during a pandemic in Toronto (and in quarantine). Jonathan took his new job knowing that it would combine Jonathan’s two passions — travel and travel. Well, almost. On top of travel (squared), he also focuses on marketing and business, too. As you may remember from our last interview, Jonathan studied business during his Harvard Business School years. He has built a life and steady career not only in international business but in a niche that has enabled him to be flexible and dynamic during these uncertain economic times. Jonathan has not only embraced the change — he’s making the most of his new job and new life of splitting his time between New York and Toronto. Let’s learn more. 

When we last spoke in 2019, you were living in New York City — where has life taken you since? Have you been working during the pandemic?

“I recently took on a new role as Chief Growth Officer at Portage, a fintech-focused venture capital firm. My role is to help our portfolio companies with marketing. I split my time between Toronto, Canada and New York City, New York.”

How does your new job differ from your past one?

“In my previous job I was the CMO at Policygenius, where I led and built out their marketing function. In my new role, I advise over a dozen companies within our global portfolio on marketing and growth. I also work with the investment team to help decide which new companies we should invest in.”

Wallpaper with LED lights that say "Wake up in the city that never sleeps"

How are things in Toronto, Canada? 

“Things in Toronto have been great. The pandemic has definitely changed things but we’re handling it well. Canadians took the pandemic very seriously. The government supported the wearing of masks early and the case counts as a result were generally well controlled. I’d also forgotten how great the summers in Canada are. Being 350 miles north of NYC means there’s summer sunny weather but far less humidity. Makes for a more pleasant outdoor experience for patio hang-outs and bike rides around the city.”

How has it been working during a pandemic? 

“Like everyone else, the first few months of COVID were challenging. I started my new job in mid-March, the week everything closed down. As such, I was mailed a computer and onboarded to my new role virtually. I haven’t been to my office once. It was definitely a unique way to begin a new job, but you adapt and move on. The companies we invest in are startups in the financial services industry. After a few weeks of rapid re-forecasting and pausing marketing budgets, thankfully most of our fintech companies have rebounded. Most have surpassed their pre-pandemic growth levels.”

A picture of a leaf that Jonathan took while working during a pandemic.

It’s been years since you lived in Canada — how does it feel to be back?

“I left Canada thirteen years ago when I moved to Boston to get my MBA at Harvard. The city has changed a lot since 2007. Last year, Fast Company called out Toronto as North America’s fastest-growing tech market. It’s been exciting to see the city go through so much change. There are new developments coming up everywhere — it feels like Toronto is having a moment, and it’s great to be part of that, even if I’m just working during the pandemic.”

Are you staying near where you grew up or where your family is? 

“When I’m in Toronto, I live about thirty minutes from my parents’ home. My parents still live in the same house where I grew up. It’s great to be able to pop back to their place for a quick dinner or a weekend visit.”

Toronto's skyline from a park, which Jonathan can visit while working during the pandemic in Toronto.

Have you had the chance to reconnect with old friends or see your family on a regular basis? How are you adjusting to your new life?

“Most of my family still lives in Toronto (except for my brother and his family who live in Tokyo, Japan). I also have many friends in the city from high school & college. They have made the transition back to the city much easier. When I was living in NYC, I came back to Toronto three to four times a year for holiday, Canadian Thanksgiving, and during the summer. I kept up my network which made working during a pandemic in Toronto much easier.”

Jonathan Metrick visiting friends from Toronto while working during a pandemic

Jonathan continues to achieve his goals while working during a pandemic by not only adapting to the norms of today but by embracing them. How? He doesn’t stop engaging online and will always travel when permitted. In order to live in a society that is dealing with uncertainty — shouldn’t we embrace change? We will catch up with our superstar fintech CFO in 2021 to see how things are going. Please be sure to check in then.