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 can make a difference. 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 John Polyviou, General Manager of Sun Island Tours who sheds light on his blossoming journey as a travel expert and guru.
What do you do in your role?
My position is General Manager, but I use that term loosely as I do a little bit of everything. I may help out in reservations answering calls, to helping produce our brochures, reconciling accounts or running the business. It keeps things interesting and allows me to stay in touch with both our staff and the travel agents.
Where did you start your career in the industry?
My parents have run a successful VFR Travel Agency since 1976. I was surrounded by travel growing up, so it was an easy transition after uni to step into a role in the family business. When I first started in 2003, I had the support of my family and a small driven team to help build up the business. Running a family business along with my brother Paul, means our success is measured on where Sun Island Tours is today – which is the largest niche wholesaler for the Mediterranean in Australia.
How have you seen the industry change in the past 12 months?
The industry is consolidating the tools and knowledge at hand to help their clients. Rather than seeing products as competitors, we are more accepting of things like social media to help educate our clients. I see more travellers are looking for experiences rather than holidays and as a wholesaler offering everything to everyone we are constantly evolving to do just that.
Where would you like to see the industry in 3-5 years?
I would like to see an industry more united. I believe the past few years we have been pointing back to that direction and it is great to see that we are growing our industry rather than competing for the same pie.
What advice would you give an industry newbie?
Treat each customers trip as your own. Understand the research that they have done but try to add value to their trip by offering product which caters to them. They will appreciate this and keep coming back.
What do you love most about working in the travel industry?
The people. I met people in the industry 15 years ago who I am still very close to today. We are in an industry which has a common goal, and it allows us to create some fantastic relationships.
What’s the weirdest/most amusing famil you’ve ever had?
Ahh… I was once on a famil to Abu Dhabi, and ended up on a super yacht with David Hasselhoff and Diego Maradona! Let’s just say “what happens on the boat….”
How can we as an industry ‘travel to change the world?
By encouraging people to travel not just to Western countries, but also those countries that do not have the same opportunities or standard of living that enjoy in Australia. In that way perhaps we can build a culture that is more inclusive to those who come to Australia looking for a better way of life.
What has been your most memorable trip/ most eye-opening thing you’ve ever seen on your travels?
I travelled to Egypt in 2011 immediately after the civil unrest. Tourism had dropped to a halt, and I found myself as the only person visiting Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple.
It was sad to see that a country which is so rich in history and culture, and so dependent on tourism, had come to this point. It was however very humbling to experience the destination at that time.
If you could travel anywhere on any budget, where would it be and why?
I have a young family now so my immediate priorities or wish list has changed. Just give me a relaxing quiet island in the Mediterranean, where the kids can play at the beaches, and we can explore the local restaurants at night.
What do YOU love about working in travel?
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