How do you define a great travel experience?
A great travel experience is one that’s seamless. Where everything goes smoothly, right from taking the ticket from the agent, going through the airport, everything has already been done by the agent, your seats have been chosen for you, whatever special meals you require are there. It helps when you’re telling a customer about an experience when you’ve already done it, so there are no pitfalls in his journey that you might have faced.
What inspires you?
Travel. Seeing the world. To know about different cultures, different countries, see what the world has to offer. The mind is so big and large that it keeps on thinking, so when the mind is thinking you’ve got to take in whatever comes, and the more you see, the more visual experiences you have, the better the mind is.
What do you like about being part of the GTN family?
It’s close knit. It’s a very approachable group that anyone can be a part of any time. Your work is done on time, everything is ship shape, it’s smooth, no hassles. And the famils.
What is your biggest frustration about the travel industry?
Fly by night operators underselling the cost of the ticket. The cheaters out there trying to cheat the people. It frustrates me to know that somebody is trying to just rip you off. If the customer is smart he tries to get the best deal he can – it’s always advisable to get the best price, but at the same time he has to be wary. In this industry in the last 16 years I’ve seen at least eight or nine people run away with customers’ money. It’s not limited to one community as such it’s across the board. When you try to undercut people and you try to rush ahead there’s definitely going to be pitfalls somewhere.
What’s been the hardest moment in your career?
Trying to get the fly by night operators out of the industry. You have organisations like IATA and TAANZ and other industry bodies as such, but nobody takes any action and that’s where the frustration comes. I let the airlines know, but for the airlines again greed comes first. Only when they get bitten is when they realise ‘oh we should have listened’. They are taking action, they are trying to tighten up their operation, but then it’s the good travel agents that suffer when the airlines tighten up their screws.
What’s been the greatest/a highlight?
When I entered the industry. It took me many years, I was in very different industries before, I was a sales manager for a brewery, I was in sales in a lot of different industries but it involved a lot of travel. I travelled at least 80-90% of India. When I migrated to New Zealand about 21 years ago tried a few different industries in the beginning and decided to go after my passion of travel. It’s always good to work when you feel happy. I have no regrets.
How do you balance work and life?
I go home for lunch. We expanded our business as such when we bought this office, and it’s close to the house so that I can go home in the middle of the day.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give to someone first starting out in the industry?
Be truthful to your customers, and basically don’t try to cut corners. Don’t try to cut corners by undercutting the price because at the end of the day you will be the loser. You’re in the trade, you have to make money to survive. The moment you start cutting prices you’re going to start going down. That customer is not going to stay for you, they’re going to run to the next person that offers the ticket for a dollar cheaper. My biggest piece of advice would be to make your customer happy. That’s how we’ve survived in this industry, we haven’t really advertised we’ve gone on word of mouth, and referrals speak louder than anything.
What is your life motto?
Be happy. Enjoy life. It’s once in a lifetime. Enjoy it while you can.
Where are your favourite places to travel?
I’ve travelled a lot in Europe and the States. My son lives in London, so every year when we go over we take his car and go somewhere – we went to the south of France this year. I’ve done an Alaska cruise. I really like Prague – it’s got a lot of history in it, in fact I like that whole belt, Prague, Budapest, Vienna. I love places that have history behind them. I would like to go to Africa next, specifically South Africa. I haven’t been to that continent so that’s on my bucket list.