When and why did you join the industry?
After a brief stint in banking, I was drawn to the travel industry. My best friend, who was working in the industry at that stage, used to explain her daily processes to me. I loved what she told me and could not wait to organise trips and issue tickets. It was very different in those days as we had to calculate our own fares. My first position was for a very large corporate agency. I commenced as a domestic consultant and worked my way up to international consultant, handling large multinational companies. I then changed roles to enter the world of tourism sales, and have never looked back.
What do you like most about your job?
I love the constant changes that we see in the industry – it is like moving with the sea. It’s never going to stop, it’s never going to wait for you, you just have to be ready and alert to jump on board at any second. It gives me a great rush.
What’s one of the biggest achievements of your career so far?
This would go back to the beginning of my time with MSC. I asked Mr Aponte, owner of MSC and MSC Cruises, if I could sell passenger cruises here in Australia. At that point our ships were only in the Mediterranean, and Australia was an untapped market – most people here had never heard about MSC Cruises. It was a gamble but he trusted me. Most importantly, I believed that it would be successful.
What’s the best advice ever given to you and who gave it?
I have been given great advice over the years from an array of people with great wisdom. It is, however, my grandmother’s words of wisdom that spring to mind. When I was five years old she told me to always feel young, no matter what age, and to hold onto that thought. In hindsight, it was invaluable advice.
Who do you admire and see as a role model in the travel and/or hospitality industry?
I really look up to, and admire, Mr Aponte, the owner of MSC and MSC Cruises. Mr Aponte had a dream to own a ship. He reached his goal, but never settled. He sought for perpetual improvement and growth. From a single ship, the MSC fleet now comprises of 470 cargo ships and 12 passenger cruise ships. If that isn’t incredible, I don’t know what is.
What’s a memorable travel experience you’ve had?
I was very young and travelling with my future husband in Zimbabwe during the war. Although we had organized a transfer from the airport to take us in convoy to the hotel, there was no one to pick us up when we landed. We started speaking to four Zimbabwean army men, who had planned a fishing trip, and were heading in the same direction as we were, so they invited us to travel with them. We were told to sit in the middle seats while they held AK47s out the windows. It was a strange scenario – in a car waiting for conflict, whilst passing the wildlife eating contentedly in the bushes.
What are three things you always take when travelling?
My Nivea body moisturizer. An open mind. And, shamefully, my mobile – I’m always on my emails.
Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and a destination you’d like to go with them?
In all honesty, if I could travel with anyone it would be my family. I’m lucky enough that I am able to! If I was to choose a celebrity it would be Alan Carr, i.e. Chatty Man. I think he is absolutely hilarious and I love a laughter filled holiday. I’d love to do a really adventurous trip with him that involved skydiving!