Say hello to the inspiring people in the industry who’ve chosen ‘travel for life’ as their career. They are ultra passionate, much-loved and inspire others by going above & beyond in their roles.

This week, we meet Halina Kubica, the awesome Managing Director behind one of Australia’s leading Mediterranean travel experts, the Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre.

She’s got experience by the bucket-load, and is passionate about making those dreamy Greek/Mediterranean trips a reality for her clients.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR ROLE?

I am the managing director of Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre and the newly launched Luxury Greece Collection. I consider myself a hands-on director. I’m still actively involved with every aspect of the business right down to helping consultants answer difficult inquiries.

 

WHERE DID YOU START YOUR CAREER IN THE INDUSTRY?

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I’m originally from Poland and was doing my PhD in Mathematical statistics before I moved to Athens in 1991. Getting into the travel industry was a bit of a fluke. I started working at a travel agency in Athens and fell in love. When I came to Australia, I worked for two wholesalers that specialised in Greece and the Mediterranean. Once I felt that I had built up a lot of experience, I decided to open my own office in 2003.

 

HOW HAVE YOU GOTTEN TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

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Hard work. Dedication. I love what I do. I also find creating strong relationships with my suppliers overseas is crucial for our business. We do not sell everything. We cannot! We pick quality products and services and then we work closely with our suppliers to make sure that they provide the level of service that Australians require. We want our travellers to have an exceptional experience every time they book with us.

 

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE INDUSTRY CHANGE IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS?

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Image: Lonely Planet/Unsplash

There have been a lot of rapid changes – mainly with the prevalence of the Internet and increase of online suppliers. That’s changed the industry dramatically because in some ways it feels like a gigantic supermarket – people ask too often what is the best price for this and they do not consider first, is this good product for me? It becomes a race to the bottom with regards to prices. Our focus has always been quality service and support, which isn’t something a lot of economical online suppliers offer.

 

WHO INSPIRES YOU IN THE INDUSTRY?

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Mainly it’s everyday travel agents, especially those working from home who pride themselves on providing the best service to the client. They are really dedicated to what they do. Quite often they are not appreciated to the level they should be. Unfortunately, in our industry, often the remuneration is not equivalent to the amount of work put in.

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO AN INDUSTRY NEWBIE?

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Believe in yourself and believe in the added value you can add to your client’s experience. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion and to be confident that you know more than what the client knows. You can enrich their experience. You are an additional service to them. 

I think the common trap newbies fall into is this feeling of being an imposter. Like, “Oh, the internet knows better or someone else knows better.” That’s wrong. If you believe what you’re doing, your clients will see the value you provide.

 

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT WORKING IN THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY?

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I like working with our clients. It’s fun. I couldn’t be a divorce lawyer or a criminal lawyer. You have to deal with sad people. We are working with happy people. They are excited about going travelling. It’s full of emotions and it’s extremely rewarding when they come back and say how wonderful their holiday was. It makes it all worthwhile. 

 

HOW HAS WORKING IN TRAVEL CHANGED YOU?

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I’ve become more customer focused. I always ask myself, “If it was my holiday, how would I want this to be?” But I also understand that my clients might have different interests and different budgets and different wishes for their dream trip. 

Generally, working in travel opens you up to a whole new world of experiences. You get to see different cultures and the way people operate their own businesses. Even the way hotels are run is different in other countries. Sometimes we have to find a compromise to make everyone happy. That’s the key to success in this business. You can’t focus on one thing at a time. You need to learn to juggle multiple needs and make sure it’s all done properly.

 

HOW CAN WE AS AN INDUSTRY ‘TRAVEL TO CHANGE THE WORLD’?

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That’s a very big topic. Travel has a lot to do with supporting local businesses and industries within the countries we visit. Yes, over tourism is a real issue, but we also have to recognise that for many of these destinations, tourism is a crucial element that keeps the local community thriving. That’s why it’s important for all of us to encourage our travellers to experience new cultures in a positive way. 

 For example, I encourage our clients to add a less well-known island that needs more tourists to their itinerary or suggest visiting countries in the off-season.

 

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE TRIP/MOST EYE-OPENING THING YOU’VE EVER SEEN ON YOUR TRAVELS?

 I’ve always been associated with Greece, but I think my most memorable trip is when I went to Disneyland in California. I took my daughter who was quite young at the time. It was right after the first Mamma Mia! movie came out. We walked into a shoe shop and my daughter screamed, “Oh, Sophie!” It was Amanda Siegfried and Dominic Cooper shopping together.

I’ve been to Skopelos, the island where the movie was filmed in Greece, so I went to say hello and asked them how they enjoyed the island. 

We didn’t see any other celebrities on our trip – just the actors from Mamma Mia!

 

IF YOU COULD TRAVEL ANYWHERE ON ANY BUDGET, WHERE WOULD IT BE AND WHY?

You won’t believe it, but it’s Greece. I love travelling to Greece. Every time I go there, I add new places I’ve never been. I am constantly discovering new things I love about the country. I like to encourage clients to travel to new locations, experience the real Greece.  I think I will never run out of new places and experiences to explore there. Even when I return to islands I’ve been before, I find something new I didn’t see the last time.

 It’s funny – I really do love travelling to Greece and never get bored with it. 

This year when I went to Kefalonia I was asked several times from which village my parents are from. It made me feel like a real Greek!

 

Have you dreamt of visiting Greece and the Med?