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Travel Leaders: Sherly Handjojo, Marketing Manager, Tourism Authority of Thailand

Growing up in Indonesia, the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Sherly Handjojo could always feel when the holiday spirit was in the air. Sherly shares her thoughts on leadership and challenges us all to start ticking off our bucket lists.

Growing up in Indonesia, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Sherly Handjojo could always feel when the holiday spirit was in the air. Sherly shares her thoughts on leadership and challenges us all to start ticking off our bucket lists.

As a young girl in Jakarta, Sherly would sometimes join her dad on his airport transfer job. She still remembers how energised she became when she saw an airport, a hotel or when the holiday spirit took hold.

Her dad also owned a small travel agency, so for Sherly, the travel industry is in her blood.

After graduating from university in the USA, Sherly returned to Jakarta to work for one of Indonesia’s largest travel agency chains, Avia Tour.

In 2005, Sherly and her then-boyfriend travelled to Sydney for a holiday, where he proposed. They married and moved to Australia a year later.

As a Chinese born, Indonesian raised now Australian, Sherly puts many of us to shame by speaking three languages: Indonesian, English and Mandarin.

What is happening in your business at the moment and how does the forthcoming period look? 

Muay Thai, Group Class in Pattaya

We cannot contain our excitement about the recent Thailand entry requirement relief. We are expecting the removal of the Thailand Pass very soon too, hopefully, next month.

We have some infrastructure developments underway that will make a world of difference. A third airport, high-speed rail and the construction of a 100km bridge, all of which will make travel easier into and around Thailand.

What are you excited about right now? 

Broncos Champions for Charity

TRAVEL IS BACK, BABY! I am honestly ecstatic to see the mass movements of people again.

The fact that we can travel overseas or have our family and friends visit us down under, is certainly not something I’ll ever take for granted anymore.

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

Tourism Authority of Thailand Colour Run Team

We are finding that when travellers decide to travel, they are very conscious of their purpose.

No longer do they simply want to take a picture in front of the Grand Palace or the White Temple; the reason for travelling is becoming a lot deeper.

Bleisure is going to grow a great deal as professionals will want to make the most of their business trips. We will see extra leisure days tacked on to corporate travel so they can experience the different cultures and cuisines.

What are the biggest challenges right now for travel? 

Travel Leader Sherly Handjojo

Some travel businesses used the pandemic to prepare themselves for the pent-up demand we are seeing now, but most didn’t have the cash flow or labour to get themselves ready.

Staffing is also an issue: a number of businesses can’t find sufficient staff because so many people moved on from our beloved industry.

What about the biggest opportunities? 

KARRYON_Balance_wellness_Thailand
Find balance once more

The Wellness holiday is a huge opportunity. Whether visitors are seeking complete relaxation or wanting to spend time focusing on their health.

What a clever purpose that is! We always hear “invest in yourself,” so how about looking after your very being, your mind, your body, and your soul?

As a leader yourself, how important is leadership right now? And what does/should good leadership look like? What are some solid values you admire? 

Northern Hilltribe Cooking in Chiang Rai

It may sound cliché, but “leading by example,” is what I go by. A great leader knows their team well and delegates based on each team member’s competence.  

A great leader shows grit and integrity. They make each team member understand how important their role is in achieving the overall business objectives.

It is also essential to show gratitude; you would be surprised how a simple thank you goes a long way.

Great leadership is even more important when the business is not going so great. A leader communicates what is happening with his or her team and shows empathy, not as a superior but as a human.

How key is collaboration in the industry? 

karryon-famil-to-thailand-viva-holidays-2

All travel professionals are ambassadors, we influence our social circles on where to go, what to book, and how to get there. Travel Agents are best for travellers now, as agents guide you on which extra steps you need to prepare for travel these days.

Agents need support from wholesalers or airlines to get the best rate, service, and packaging. The wholesalers and airlines get their information from government bodies. NTOs share their information and make announcements through trade media. We all need each other.  

I love how our Australian travel industry is small, and everyone knows everyone. The pandemic has made all of us miss more of the human touch.

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

G Adventures Sale
Sailing the Islands of Thailand

Definitely not enough. But it is great to see big travel companies doing their part and making their pledge, and I believe these things will go far and inspire everyone.

Companies such as The Travel Corporation, Intrepid and Karryon are going to be influential in driving and stimulating not only awareness but action.

The majority of the hotels and tourism operators in Thailand are reducing the usage of disposable plastic. Operators such as the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre in Phuket, the Elephant Hills in Khao Sok, to Hivesters share the push for sustainability.

What are your personal learnings from the last two years? 

Karry On - Excite Thailand
  • Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. It is okay to put yourself first because when your glass is empty, there is nothing you can pour out of it.
  • Life is short, make every moment count.
  • Always try to beat yourself, not others. This one is a hard one, and I have to remind myself from time to time.

What is your message to the industry?

Elephant Hills

As the travel industry is slowly rebuilding, I am reassessing my bucket list and I’m inviting everyone to do the same.

Let’s start jotting down what we really want to experience. The world is so beautiful and it is waiting for us to explore it. Let’s get planning and start ticking off our list.

Sherly Handjojo is the Marketing Manager for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, based in Sydney. You can find out more about Sherly via her LinkedIn profile.