Head of Retail Marketing for Flight Centre Europe
SUE Johnson is Flight Centre through and through. Having started out with Flight Centre’s Shopper Travel brand 11 years ago, she’s been climbing the ranks (minus a couple of short stints) ever since.
“What could be better than talking about travel all day?” is the mantra which led her to the industry and she’s certainly had a few career highlights since.
The Global Gathering in Las Vegas tops the list, followed by seeing Machu Picchu, but the stand out so far is her move to London in July last year to become head of retail marketing for Flight Centre Europe.
Having made a leap of her own, Sue’s advice to other up and comers is to “go for that promotion, even if you aren’t 100% sure. Far too often we under-estimate ourselves”.
“And spend time with people you admire so you can learn as much as possible from them and they understand what you’re trying to achieve. I wouldn’t be where I am without the people that took a chance on me,” she adds.
After more than a decade in the industry, Sue says she’s yet to feel bored.
“Flight Centre is constantly evolving… and it’s also an environment where trying new things and challenging the status quo is encouraged. Those are the two things that keep me motivated.”
In her role, Sue says matching together a lot of moving parts can be challenging – but fun.
“There are a lot of moving parts. Lots of different media channels, different customer types and literally a world of destinations to promote,” she says.
Her biggest lesson yet is “done is better than perfect”.
“I’ve been guilty of spending too much time trying to get something ‘just right’ but by the time you get it out there you’ve missed the opportunity and it was all for nothing.”
Sue envisions the biggest change the industry is yet to come to grips with is the sharing economy.
“The trend towards share economy is already having a massive impact and it’s only in its infancy,” she says. “Things like Airbnb,
while not for everyone, have definitely met a need in the market. Traditional travel retailers will need to find a way to embrace this – it’s what customers want.”
With all her experience, she still managed to face a few challenges of her own on her first overseas holiday to Thailand with her now-husband.
“For years I’d been telling clients not to get in unlicensed cabs, not to go into unmarked shops and to generally be wary,” Sue says
“Within the first 24 hours I’d fallen for every trick in the book. We’d been given a tuk tuk ‘temple tour’ that happened to end at the driver’s cousin’s suit shop, ended up on the outskirts of town at some dodgy restaurant that an (unlicensed) cab driver dumped us at and purchased some ‘authentic’ Thai art pieces that fell apart before we even got home!”
Most memorable moment: Global Gathering in Las Vegas, getting to see Machu Picchu and moving to London.
Favourite part of the job: Apart from the fact that I get to talk about travel all day, I love the people I work with.
How you unwind: I’ve only been in London for eight months so we’re still exploring this amazing city. Each weekend we try to do something we haven’t done yet.
The next hot destination: Cuba. We’re seeing a surge in enquiry for this destination now that the sanctions are being lifted.