Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor at Con­tiki Hol­i­days

Travel Bulletin - - COVER -

START­ING out as a lawyer, the travel in­dus­try was not on Ka­t­rina Barry’s radar.

“Thanks but no thanks” are the words she ini­tially told a re­cruiter for Con­tiki.

“Isn’t Con­tiki just a bunch of 20-year-olds on a bus go­ing around Europe drink­ing?”

Later on, the re­cruiter called back and talked her into hav­ing cof­fee with the head of the com­pany on the ba­sis of “he’s a Kiwi, you’re a Kiwi and he wants you to know you are ab­so­lutely right. 25 years ago that’s ex­actly what it was but it’s not like that to­day and the rea­son why Con­tiki’s still num­ber one is they in­no­vate ev­ery year. It’s your gen­er­a­tion that were the drinkers, Gen­er­a­tion Y don’t drink as much”.

Still not en­tirely con­vinced, she took a trip to road-test the com­pany for her­self and one very skilled, cul­tur­ally and his­tor­i­cally sen­si­tive tour man­ager later she was on board.

“I thought not only is this trip man­ager so skilled at bring­ing to­gether this group of di­verse peo­ple, he’s made them all gel and bond in three days, that’s re­ally impressive. Se­condly they’re hav­ing the time of their lives and then for me, the mean­ing came in when he started to teach them about his­tory and cul­ture and so­cial im­pact and that’s when I went ‘oh, okay, this is much more ro­bust and well-man­nered than I thought’ and I went ‘okay, travel in­dus­try here we go’.”

Ka­t­rina’s ca­reer prior to the travel in­dus­try

– which she en­tered just over two years ago

– spanned from a man­age­ment con­sul­tant, to co-found­ing Vir­gin Ac­tive Aus­tralia.

Jump­ing be­tween time zones can be a strug­gle for even the most prac­ticed, and for Ka­t­rina, the big­gest chal­lenge of her role is jet­lag. “My life looks re­ally glam­orous on Face­book and In­sta­gram and my en­tire fam­ily and friends say ‘do you ever work?’ and I’m like ‘dar­ling I left the of­fice last night at 11:30pm, I wasn’t In­sta­gram­ming that.’”

Ka­t­rina’s trick to stay­ing switched on while trav­el­ling is mela­tonin and Red Bull and her rule is to start ad­just­ing to the new time zone the mo­ment she’s on board a plane.

Once she ar­rives in the coun­try, it’s straight to the ho­tel to freshen up, and then off to the of­fice and about 3pm it’s time for a Red Bull.

Aside from en­ergy drinks, Ka­t­rina says she gets her kick out of watch­ing her team grow and hear­ing cus­tomer sto­ries.

“I hire for DNA and at­ti­tude. I don’t re­ally care about ex­pe­ri­ence,” she tells tb.

“Ex­pe­ri­ence is use­ful but I have zero in­ter­est in you if you’ve been in travel be­fore and if you’ve done the role be­fore. DNA and at­ti­tude for me is all about ethic and val­ues so that’s what I value… are you a Con­tiki per­son? And are you a cu­ri­ous, young at heart, en­er­getic per­son?”

For those who yearn for suc­cess in the travel in­dus­try, Ka­t­rina has three tips.

“My key ad­vice for any­one in any ca­reer is to find good soil,” she says. “You can’t grow and you can’t blos­som un­less you’re in a great en­vi­ron­ment.

I hire for DNA and at­ti­tude. I don’t re­ally care ex­pe­ri­ence’ about

“Two, great­ness doesn’t hap­pen be­tween 8:30 and 5:30 and I find that’s a re­ally chal­leng­ing con­cept for Gen­er­a­tion Y. I would say the strides I’ve made have been ex­tra projects I’ve done out­side of my hours or the lit­tle stuff like putting your hands up for things that’s not part of your job.

“The third thing is you get paid in two ways in this world, with money and with ex­pe­ri­ences. The sec­ond is more im­por­tant.”

As for what’s on her radar now, Ka­t­rina is firmly fo­cused on keep­ing the 54-year old Con­tiki busi­ness strong. “I want to make sure Con­tiki’s around for the next 54 years.”

First thing you do when you get into work: I dump my hand­bag and grab my cof­fee cup, I get my cup of tea and walk around the of­fice and say hi to ev­ery­body.

Big­gest chal­lenge for the in­dus­try: How to en­sure that we evolve to meet cus­tomer needs, The cus­tomer has the tech­nol­ogy and power now, and any­one can be a player in the value chain.

How you un­wind: In all hon­esty, far too much red wine on Fri­day night and then I start the penance of yoga on the week­end.

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