SUE JOHN­SON

Head of Re­tail Mar­ket­ing for Flight Cen­tre Europe

Travel Bulletin - - COVER -

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.

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