Name: Fred van Eijk
Position title: Managing Director Travel Counsellors Australia and GM & Founder the Netherlands and Belgium
Company name: Travel Counsellors
When and why did you join the industry?
I became fed up asking my dad for money and took a job as a tour guide while I was studying in Paris. At the age of 21, I opened my own travel agency in Holland which I sold a few years later and moved to England to become a senior buyer for a large travel firm.
What do you like most about your job?
I love the people – my colleagues, our Travel Counsellors and our customers. And I very much like and believe in our ethos; With us it’s personal and we truly take care of each other and our customers.
What’s one of the biggest achievements of your career so far?
Turning a small travel firm in the Netherlands, that was built at my kitchen table to a successful and leading agency of passionate travel professionals. We have such a solid base of successful Travel Counsellors, dedicated staff and strong management in place and being able to bring my tried and tested formulas for success to Australia and grow this great business even further has been a real highlight of my career so far.
What’s the best advice ever given to you and who gave it?
“Be yourself and get the very best out of you. Focus on your strengths.” Several people have advised me this over the years and it always works – Especially in this day and age, where emotional intelligence becomes more important in leadership, team-building and career progression. It is important to be open, caring and sharing a common goal.
Who do you admire and see as a role model in the industry?
I truly admire home-based agents. They bring back the passion in travel, genuinely care for their customers as well as their families and at the same time, have successfully built their own business, and set the tone for a major change in our industry.
What can people expect from your company and what sets it apart from the rest?
We really care. The company cares for its staff, the staff care for all our Travel Counsellors and the Travel Counsellors care for their customers. We offer full support to our agents, allowing them to do what they do best; looking after their customers, networking and putting together great travel itineraries. The customers always come first and we only offer what is best for them and are always there when they need us, 24/7. The support to the agents, as well as to the customers is second to none and I am extremely proud of that.
What destinations are on your travel bucket list?
The Trans-Siberian Railway, Fiji, more of Australia, Japan, Kerala, Brazil, Borneo where the wild Orangutans are… It’s a never-ending list, really.
What’s a memorable travel experience you’ve had (good or bad)?
I never have a bad experience because I just don’t allow it. Travel always gives you something and each experience is a gift.
My most recent trip was with my family to Vietnam, so that will forever have a special place in my heart. A few other memorable places that I’ve been lucky to see are Patagonia, Galapagos, Costa Rica, Colombia, Oman, Morocco and Greece’s incredible islands.
I’ve really fallen in love with Australia and have already had the chance to see many great places. The longer I stay, the more I read and hear, my list of places around this incredible country keeps growing. I don’t think I can ever stop travelling and exploring in this great country.
What are three things you always take with you when travelling?
1. My iPhone – it lets me take pictures and write notes for my blogs and articles. It also helps me to stay in touch with my colleagues and Travel Counsellors, because leadership doesn’t have a start or finish time.
2. Trainers – Not just for casual days, but I love to keep fit and use the gym where possible or go for a run.
3. My sunglasses. I am a brand ambassador for a luxury eyewear brand.
Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and a destination you’d like to go with them.
I would love to spend some time with Sir Richard Branson on his private Island and talk about life, business and the travel industry.
What direction do you see the industry heading in over the next five to ten years?
We will move closer to clearly defined business models; the Transactional Model and the Relationship Model. Price will be the foundation of the Transactional Model, where sales purely driven by algorithm and robots, rather than human beings – which form the basis of Relationship model, that is driven by people and personal care, and supported by advanced technology.
I believe companies that lie in between these two models will find it hard to survive. I am extremely confident in our business model, as it provides personal care and service of the highest standards and is very successful at it. I am so excited about the future of our industry, as well as the future of Travel Counsellors. It is the best time to be in it and I plan to enjoy this journey for as long as I can.