Say hello to the legends of the industry who’ve chosen to work in ‘travel for life’. We find out what they’ve learnt on their own personal travel journey and what insights they have to share.
These are the ultra passionate, much-loved folk that continue to inspire others by going above and beyond in their everyday roles and living the ‘travel for life’ mantra to the max.
We catch up with Ulla Hefel Böhler, CEO of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold. Ulla is an industry legend who manages to balance work, life, travel, the TreadRight Foundation and everything in between.
How long have you worked in the travel industry and how did you come to be the Global Chief Executive of Insight Vacations?
It’s over 20 years now! After taking a degree in tourism and economics I worked in various roles in the hotel industry before getting into river cruising.
In 2005 I joined Uniworld, who had just been acquired by TTC, as Director of Operations and Contracting. This was the beginning of my now 15-year journey with TTC’s family of brands.
The next step in my TTC career I was the Director of Operations for Insight, Luxury Gold, Trafalgar and Costsaver for seven years before a year as VP of Special Projects. Then three years ago I was given the amazing opportunity to become the global CEO of two of the most incredible brands. I am a very lucky person!
Having worked with the brand for a while now, which of the many tours stands out the most to you and why?
They are all great in their own way and our four different travel styles (Discoveries, Easy Pace, Country Roads, and Regionals) perfectly cater to different travel preferences.
Personally, I love the Country Roads itineraries as they really go off the beaten track and to some of the lesser-known cities. Country Roads of Italy, Country Roads of Croatia and Country Roads of Scotland, are just a few of our itineraries in this travel style.
Of all the TreadRight initiatives that Insight Vacations features in its programs, which are you most proud of and why?
I am so proud of our new partnership with the Cristina Heeren Foundation in Seville. We will be able to make a real difference to support four students in their Flamenco masterclass and will as such contribute to keeping this important tradition alive.
At the same time, this will give our travellers a deeper and more meaningful experience beyond simply watching a Flamenco performance.
I’m also incredibly passionate about the Iraq Al Amir Women’s Association. Managed and run by local women, Iraq al-Amir has provided training projects on a variety of heritage handicrafts (i.e. paper, fabric, ceramics, soap) for more than 150 women from all villages of the Wadi Seer district of Jordan.
Our guests get to have a meaningful visit, and are invited to assist the women in making their crafts and then lunch with them to learn more about who they are and what they do.
Which Insight Vacations tour are you keen to do next and why?
I’m keen to get on our Country Roads of Ireland, which is now running all year round. From seeing the Cliffs of Moher, to meeting a hurling player and learning their tricks and visiting the Book of Kells, Ireland has so much history and culture to offer.
I’m personally excited about our Insight Choice for this trip, guests can choose between a memorable ride on a horse-drawn jaunting car or join a gentle hike along the lakeshore and past the farmlands of the Muckross Estate.
If you could launch an Insight Vacations trip anywhere in the world (that the brand isn’t already going to), where would it be, why and what would you want that trip to include?
Well, the beauty of my role is that I can actually make it happen, and not just dream about it, which is why we launched our new India, Sri Lanka and Nepal trips for Insight Vacations this year.
We always listen to our guests and ensure that we create trips and experiences that are right for them and are looking into a few exciting innovations for 2021. Watch this space!
Tell us about one of your favourite travel memories.
A recent favourite is Egypt, we took a family holiday there last October and it was exceptional.
We felt very privileged to be there without the crowds and with the locals welcoming us with open arms. The combination of fascinating history (you can’t but be in awe of the pyramids and fall in love with all the stories about the pharaohs) and archaeological treasures along the Nile are the most unique in the world.
We were also very fortunate to sail onboard the River Tosca, the best ship on the Nile.
What advice would you give someone wanting to work their way up to being the Global Chief Executive of a travel brand?
First of all, choose an industry that you love – if your heart is not in travel, work hard to find an industry that you do love.
Believe in yourself and your abilities and put your heart and soul into everything you do. Challenge the status quo and don’t get caught up in the – ‘it’s always been done that way mentality’.
Keen to share your ‘Travel for life’ story or that of a colleague?
We’d love to hear from you. Email us at [email protected]
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