I caught up with Contiki Managing Director Katrina Barry to get the scoop on what’s hot right now, being an Undercover Boss and why she lives her life with #noregrets.

Katrina Barry is quite possibly one of the most savviest and energetic operators you’ll meet in the industry, so when you catch up with ‘KB’ as she’s affectionately known, you always know you’re in for a power session of Contiki passion and a love for all things travel and innovation.

This catchup was no different. Contiki have made big waves in the past 18 months and impressively set their stall out around continually innovating and changing people’s perceptions of the youth brand along the way.

Time to get the lowdown. Here’s Katrina’s top 5 of what’s going on in Contiki land.

 

1. Contiki Trip Managers Bootcamp

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They’re smiling now. This is just the beginning.

“Right now we’re at the start of our Contiki Trip Managers Training program which is huge. It’s an annual program where literally thousands of people apply. It’s basically an Apprentice styled boot camp that takes 66 days to complete in total. People actually pay to go on it and if they get hired they get their money back.

It’s renowned in the industry for being super tough and ardously includes having to complete all manner of assignments, exercises and practical exams before you can progress to each stage.

A big part of the program is an intensive study trip around Europe where the candidates have to solve potential customer problems, deliver presentations and learn in blocks about Arts and culture, history and what’s happening right now in the destinations we visit. More than anything they’ll learn to become great storytellers for all of our customers.

The pass rate really is extremely low, because you can pretty much stuff up everything else, but you’ve got to get your people right so we’re extremely tough with who we select. Agents can rest assured that every guide has rightfully earned their place as a Contiki guide and will make sure everyone always has an amazing time.

It’s so entertaining that you never know, it could become a TV show yet. Watch this space!”

 

 2. Six-two

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The new six-two site. Check it out.

“Launched 4 months ago, Six-two is a website that has been created to be an expert destination for travel trends and functions essentially as an online Magazine for Contiki without the big brand approach.

It’s very subtle and so far the feedback has been brilliant. We’ve got lots of influential bloggers, instagrammers and travellers writing stories and taking photos and videos for us to give useful and inspirational Travel tips and info for any traveller. Everyone who contributes has been on a Contiki trip.

“For us it’s all about being authentic. Younger customers are especially wary of advertising so it’s a great way for us to connect in a non-sales way”.

“1 out of 10 under 35 have booked a trip after seeing a social post from a friend, so for agents I’d say – use it in your selling! Find out the tips and tricks that you can pass on to your clients for the destinations they’re going to”.

 

3. Virtual Reality is a reality

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Wow that was mad… And who are you? And where am I?

We were one of the first to embrace Virtual Reality and it’s been amazing. At the recent Flight Centre Expos we had people queuing including agents to have a go. It’s a phenomenal sales tool that brings the experience to life and for me is the future of retailing travel. It’s just got that wow factor.

We’re developing a lot of new exciting video content to run through the headsets and the hope is that one day we could roll them out to all stores – imagine that? Now that would be cool.

Agents are really recognising us as leading innovators given the massive behavior changes we’ve made in the last 18 months. Our 8 ways to travel has been a game changer in shifting agent’s mindsets about what Contiki is today. The clincher for me is that we’ve had so many senior consultants embracing our product range and telling us – we get it”.

 

4. Contiki Rewards EVERYONE

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Just another average night out with Contiki – NOT!

“Our ‘Rock around the world’ legendary incentive is revered as probably one of the biggest incentives in the industry but can always only be limited to the Top 20 stores only (unfortunately!).

So our new Contiki rewards monthly incentives with wildcards and competitions gives everyone a chance to get involved. We’ve set up a Facebook page for it and it’s going great guns and is a lot of fun.

We’ve got a big focus on the trade again. I think historically we lost our way there for a while so it’s great to be working together in partnership with agents and actually sounding out ideas and market insights off each other. We want agents to know us, love us and sell us”.

 

5. I’ve got #Noregrets

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KB speaks at the helloworld Frontliners Conference last year

“As part of my applying for the job at Contiki I went on an Undercover Boss trip around Europe and it revealed so much to me. Of course about Contiki as a business and how my perceptions weren’t at all spot on but more so about the level of intellect and passion our guides have for what they do.

I thought I knew a lot about the Second World War given my family background and involvement in the war itself, but on the Calais to Paris leg of the trip we drove through the battlefields and I learnt through our guide just what it was like to be a young person living in those times rather than just hearing the historical facts. How if must have felt day to day, and the sacrifices those heroes made. It really resonated with me as something very special”.

“I think it’s the only way anyone can learn really. To get context in your experiences and interactions with people and learn that often when you’re travelling – It’s not wrong, it’s just different. It’s a state of mind”.

“Those precious experiences made me realise that we’re actually helping Australians become better human beings on our trips. It’s the main reason I took the job”.

What do you think about Contiki’s new direction? Share your thoughts below.