Chris Austin leads from the right side of the desk. “I’m not talking about left or right,” he says. “But out in front, in the field, with my team, our travel partners and agencies.” Because his goal is to lend support with a focus to achieve and surpass goals and targets. And that doesn’t always happen from behind a desk.
When Explora Journeys Chief Sales Officer Chris Austin speaks, you’re taken on a journey. Noisy conference rooms transform into the deck of the luxurious EXPLORA I, or tales of Bournemouth transport you to his childhood home. He is a storyteller. And his story is one of a leader who is at once inspired and inspiring.
From washing cars to driving change
“I was privileged to be born to a mother and father that truly loved to travel,” Chris tells Karryon.
“I had my fifth birthday in Majorca. And as a family of four we travelled overseas every year. I was so excited about flying and loved staying in hotels.”
Chris loved staying in hotels so much that when on holiday when he was seven, his mother lost him in one.
“She calmly went to the reception desk in the hotel and enquired if they had seen me,” he recalls.
“They responded saying, ‘Yes, he’s with our reservations team helping out!!’”
Chris’ father was pretty strict and when Chris turned 13, his father stopped his pocket money.
“He took me into the garage of our home where I saw a bucket, sponge, chamois and car washing liquid,” Chris says.
“He promptly told me to go and wash cars and earn my own money. So following Sunday lunch I did. The second week I bought a small book and I wrote down each house I washed a car at, and most importantly I wrote down if they gave me a cash tip.
“Over the following three weeks, I continued and then on the fourth week, I only went back to the biggest tippers. And yes, I made more money each Sunday than the pocket money my father had been giving me.
“He taught me the value of money, but through these actions, he also taught me about independence, focus and commitment.”
Chris takes those lessons with him to work today.
The path to here
Chris graduated from Bournemouth University with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management. He then joined Starwood Hotels & Resorts, working at several London properties.
He eventually relocated to New York and developed a leisure-focused sales strategy and team for the company.
“These were exciting times as the company grew and soon became the largest owner and operator of luxury hotels and resorts in the world,” Chris says.
Chris was promoted to VP Global Leisure & Luxury Sales and he created and launched a luxury-focused sales organisation. He also developed a number of programs, the most notable being Starwoodpro and ProLearning.
Eventually leaving Starwood, he was appointed SVP Global Marketing and Sales for Seabourn.
“During my four years at Seabourn we launched two new ships, designed the next generation of luxury expedition ship and charted a strong vision for the future growth of the brand.”
And then the pandemic hit.
But it was during this very difficult time that Chris was approached to support the development and launch of a new family-owned European luxury lifestyle brand.
“The aim was to deliver to discerning travellers a differentiated guest experience, built on guest centricity to deliver space, choice, design, with journeys on a slower and more immersive pace. All with sustainability and travel being a force for good as key drivers.”
“As Chief Sales Officer for Explora Journeys, I developed the brand’s overall global go-to-market strategy across all sales channels. I lead the growth of the Global Sales Organization and all B2B partner trade marketing initiatives to support the launch of EXPLORA I in July 2023 and EXPLORA II in summer 2024– the first two of six superyacht style ships the luxury lifestyle travel brand will introduce between 2023 and 2028.”
When Chris first joined Explora Journeys, he and his colleagues were presented with essentially blank pieces of paper with the responsibility to take the owning family’s vision and bring it to reality.
Today, the company is a month away from launching the first of six luxury lifestyle ships “that will allow our guests to discover their Ocean State of Mind”.
“I’m passionate about people and results,” Chris says. And he works tirelessly to uncover innovative sales and marketing strategies that reflect the current global business environment.
His colleagues and industry partners know him as a unique and remarkable leader of integrity.
“And I focus on building trust and credibility with leadership, colleagues, and customers.
“I want to empower my team and I am a tireless advocate for what is right for the travel advisor community.
“It’s the people that make the difference,” he says.
“We have, as a team, turned blank paper into industry first and leading policies, programs and tools, all to support our travel advisor community and to allow them to reach higher levels of profitability when choosing to work with us.“
All in a day’s work
Chris’ days always start with a good cup of coffee and time to focus on the day ahead.
“The recipe for most days includes listening to our travel partners, supporting my team and strategizing with my CEO and leadership colleagues at our Geneva HQ.
“The day finishes often with a Peloton ride and notes to prepare for the next day.
“The highlight of every day is when I send a sincere note of recognition to a travel advisor for making their first booking with Explora Journeys. It may be the first, but I can guarantee it won’t be the last.”
To learn more about Explora Journeys, visit its website, explorajourneys.com.
Share this story