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Say hello to the people of the industry who’ve chosen to work in ‘travel for life’ and who see the travel industry as a place where small things matter and by starting your career with a TAFE education can help you advance in the industry. These are the ultra passionate, much-loved folk that continue to inspire others by going above and beyond in their everyday roles.

This week we catch up with Karina Hill, Business Development Manager of Express Travel Group, who shares how she uses her passion for travel to help her clients’ and on how she started in the industry.

 

WHAT DOES A NORMAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

Every day is different. My days are busy, whether it’s seeing existing members and helping them with developing their business, or increasing my clients’ knowledge and skills through product knowledge with the help of our preferred air and land partners, assisting any of the agent enquiries when they need help with airline airfares and ticketing issues. I work with my colleagues around the country to ensure we are focusing on areas as a collective.

 

WHY DO YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO?

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I am helping to make my clients businesses thrive, stay relevant and on trend within the industry.

 

WHAT IS HAPPENING AT EXPRESS TRAVEL GROUP THAT PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW?

We focus on small business by communicating with our members on a 1 to 1 basis regularly, we recognize that all of our members’ businesses are unique. They may have different niches or work a little different due to staffing mixes.

Lately, I have conducted planning sessions with my members to ensure they have a yearly plan and can achieve what they set out to for the new financial year as a team. We care about their business, we provide tools such as our Express Marketing system, Express Performance (our business profitability platform) or Express Academy (our learning platform), that our members can opt in or out of that help them drive growth within their business. We help them set KPIs within their teams and we work with them on how it best works for their business, how often or little they would like to see me!

 

WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNT THAT YOU WOULD PASS ON?

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Learn as much as you can, listen to your clients’ needs and never stop believing in yourself. Hard work does pay off. This year I won BDM of the year Australia with ETG in addition to State of the Year.

My passion for the industry, dedication to my role in working with my clients and growing their businesses has helped me achieve these accolades.

 

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE INDUSTRY?

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I started with ETG on the 21st February 2005 after completing a one-year travel and tourism course at TAFE in 2004. Having not even been overseas or travelled much except domestically, my Mum pushed me to make something of my life. I went and did the course and absolutely loved it and aced it. I was living on the South Coast of NSW and found a starting role as a receptionist at Orient Express Travel Group, located in Sydney.

The company took a chance on me and I took the job and for the first two years, I travelled from the South Coast two hours each way to go to work. I then went into a ticketing role for a year and assisted with some sales support as well. From this, my roles and responsibilities in the company grew as I was presented with new challenges to where I am today as Business Development Manager and growing our footprint in QLD!

 

WHAT IS IT ABOUT EXPRESS TRAVEL GROUP THAT YOU LOVE?

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It’s a family. I spend more time with them than I have with my own family. You meet people within the company, members and peer suppliers, it is like one big family. You learn from each other and at times we have differing opinions, however collectively we have watched the business grow from 250 members nationally to over 800 members across the country. A terrific achievement!

We no doubt are the last remaining, truly independent, family-owned retail travel group in Australia. We proudly represent the largest group of Independent Travel Agents in Australia. We are nimble in decision making, are led by a CEO who gives us all a chance to try new initiatives in an encouraging environment.

 

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE INDUSTRY THAT YOU LOVE?

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The people from different walks of life you meet. People travel but they see different things when they travel, not one person has the same experience at the same place and everyone’s story is different. It’s great to connect and learn about other people’s journeys and their lives.

 

WHO INSPIRES YOU WITHIN OUR INDUSTRY?

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I have great admiration for my CEO at Express Travel Group, Tom Manwaring. He cares about the industry, the people he works with, and the people that he employs. Tom took a big chance on me, I had never been overseas and I had only completed Year 10 at High School.

At the time we had a lot of different cultures within the business because our main agency base being the Select Travel Group which mainly consisted of VFR Asia business. Everything that I have learned I have learned from Tom and the team at ETG, they have treated me with respect and treated me like family.

Tom took a gamble during SARS in buying a business and having faith in the people that have worked in the company to make it what it is today, Australia’s leading independent, integrated travel business.

 

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY HEADING IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

I am quite confident the industry will thrive, with more demand for travel across all demographics. In terms of brick and mortar travel agencies, in my opinion, some transformation must occur to cater for altering customer demands.

Franchised models will continue to thrive as they have collective operational systems, technology and social media as part of their business strategies moving forward. Independent agents are becoming quite boutique already as niche specialists in what they do with comprehensive FIT bookings, they are very well educated in their product knowledge and have established themselves well in connecting with their clientele via digital means.

Overall, as our supplier partners create new and exciting products, airlines open up new routes and cruise lines launch fantastic new ships visiting exciting ports, the future of our industry is certainly bright.

 

WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH A STUDENT ENTERING THE INDUSTRY FOR THE FIRST TIME? 

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An entry level position is key. Start somewhere where you can learn as much as you can that will guide your career in the future and help you work your way up within the industry.

Travel when you can, travel by yourself, step out of your comfort zone and get to know yourself. Learn from your peers and have a mentor that will help guide you as you make your mark in the industry.

I was lucky enough to complete my TIME Mentor program in 2013. Know your values and don’t stop believing in yourself, even on the tough days.

 

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE TRIP?

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In March 2014, I hosted an Educational to the USA with Independent Travel Group Members and United Airlines. It was the busiest start to the year with our first italktravel stores opening in the Newcastle Region and following the death of my Grandfather. The group were fantastic and we visited New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

It gave me an opportunity to reflect, open my eyes to the big wide world at a time when I needed it the most. Plenty of laughs and memories to this day.

 

IF YOU COULD TRAVEL ANYWHERE ON ANY BUDGET, WHERE WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE?

I would love to visit the remote villages and towns in Italy and just disconnect, live like a local, speak like a local, drink the local wine and learn how to make Pasta from scratch.

 

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What inspires you about travel?