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Travel Leaders: Pete Rawley, CEO and Founder, Evolution Travel Collective

Pete is very comfortable with not being the smartest person in the room, in fact, he is a proponent of it. Pete believes good leadership involves hiring people that know more than he does, and in turn, he creates the best environment for their success.

Pete is very comfortable with not being the smartest person in the room, in fact, he is a proponent of it. Pete believes good leadership involves hiring people that know more than he does, and in turn, he creates the best environment for their success.

Pete Rawley’s first trip overseas in 1987 cemented his love for travel and informed his career choices thereafter.

The sounds, the tastes, and the cultures were a welcome relief to the young man that wanted to see more of the world than the very anglo, very middle-class suburb that he grew up in.

With over 25 years working in the travel industry, in roles such as Managing Director (APAC) of G Adventures and General Manager (Sales) of Intrepid, Pete knows a thing or two about leadership.

What’s happening in your business and how does the forthcoming period look?

Evolution Travel Collective (ETC) has reignited its B2B component of our business. This sees us reconnecting with the retail network on behalf of the brands we represent.

Prior to that, we were helping various land suppliers develop their ‘return to business’ strategy for what is now a very different B2B market within the APAC region.

What are you excited about right now?

New opportunities. I’m very excited about what our new structure can do to support the ever-changing industry we work in.

Our model is unique and can support the representation needs of several companies who are re-emerging from a difficult past two years. 

We have three new brands we are representing already and talking to several others about helping them move forward.

Are there trends you are seeing that are driving change in your business or the industry?

Flexibility and innovation are key in an evolving market. We have completely changed our business model to make it relevant now, not what we started with in 2018.

We shifted to a more modular offering where our customers could select the individual services that they needed, rather than the holistic model we started with.

This has allowed us to broaden our appeal and expand potential partner opportunities.

Business leaders need to look at the market and determine if they are providing a service and/or solution that is required in 2022 and beyond.

What are the biggest challenges for travel?

Egypt

Oh wow, where to start? I think this is very dependent on what offering or service you provide as to what the biggest challenges are for each business.

That said, getting quality talent back into our industry right now is the most problematic challenge everyone is facing.

I’m confident that will change over the next 12-18 months, but right now limited staff numbers and higher than budgeted salaries to encourage them back are a challenge.

What about the biggest opportunities?

Queenstown

Service, Service, Service. If you are a business that can showcase your worth and offer above and beyond service then you have the opportunity to cut through many of the current challenges.

There is nothing more evident than in the shift towards service fees for most retail agents. It’s the perfect time to showcase their expertise in navigating all the new requirements for travel: and be paid for it!

We have some of the best professionals and it’s time they were valued financially by their customers.

How important is leadership right now? What should good leadership look like?

Pete and Ingrid (Co-Founders, Evolution Travel Collective)

Great leadership is always important, but now it becomes crucial in how businesses are reimagined.

As for what good leadership looks like? I have a strong belief around this question and it is something I have said to my teams for years: selfless leadership.

One of the key characteristics of a great leader, in my opinion, is a person that creates the best possible environment for their ‘team to succeed’.

When you are a leader, it’s not about YOU anymore, it’s about your team.

Too many leaders want to be the smartest person in the boardroom. I don’t agree.

What would you like to see change? Or more of?

Be kind. Those in our industry have been through their own challenges and difficulties.

It is important to remember that collectively together, we can support a better industry moving forward.  

For example, every business is struggling to hire staff to meet the increasing demands of the industry’s resurgence. This is producing longer than usual delays and stress on things than in pre-covid times.

It’s important to remember that everyone is feeling this pain and working together will be key to getting through the next 12 months.

How key is collaboration in the industry?

Group of travel agents at lunch in Geelong.
Catching up with TravelManagers (left side, L-R) Nikki Alves (Grand Pacific Tours), Leah Keenan (Royal Brunei), PTM Helen Rolton, Rebecca Day (Stuba); (right side, L-R) PTM Julie Lunn, Pete Rawley (Evolution Travel Collective), PTMs Melanie Carter, Penny Treyvaud and Lisa King

It is a very important element within our industry, but it could be so much more. 

Many people talk up the value of ‘partnerships’, but the reality is that commercial outcomes still govern the vast majority of all decision-making.

The opportunity for true collaboration is there in front of us, especially after the past two years.

Unfortunately, some are reverting back to behaviours that lack the long-term outcomes that will benefit all collectively.

Do you think enough emphasis is being placed on sustainability in travel and addressing the climate crisis?

karryon-travel-chimu-adventures-inca-trail-peru-sustainable-travel
Image: Peter Conlan/ Unsplash

We are at the very tip of that iceberg. I think our industry understands it needs to play a key role in addressing not only the climate crisis but also long-term sustainable tourism practices.

I have been fortunate to be involved with some great companies over the past 25 years: 50 Degrees North, G Adventures, Intrepid and Exodus. These guys have been leading the way in terms of not only talking the talk but walking the walk.

It’s a very significant part of their business strategy and has a win/win outcome for the planet and them as a business because it’s a key criterion in their customers’ purchasing behaviour.

What are your personal learnings from the pandemic?

Dragoman Tours

Change is inevitable, but how you choose to react to it is within your control.

You need to be clear on what is important, what requires your focus and what is just an energy drain.

What’s your message to the industry?

It’s ok to say I’m not ok and to ask for help. People within our industry have been through so much. I want everyone to know and understand that it is ok to seek help when you need it.

I’ll share some helpful advice that I got from Lisa Pagotto, founder of Crooked Compass who said, “As we re-start things, we start from a place of experience.”

Pete Rawley is the CEO and founder of Evolution Travel Collective. You can find out more about Pete or get in touch via his LinkedIn profile.