A career in tourism was decided upon as I watched the sunrise over the Montserrat mountains in Spain on a school exchange at the age of 16. A degree in Hispanics at Liverpool University took me to Chile just four years later, and a decade of tour leading across the Latin American continent immediately followed. After staying in so many unimaginably cool hotels and hostels, my own backpackers was born at the foot of an active volcano in southern Chile. The learning curve was steep, and the days were long, but chatting with my newly checked-in guests from all over the world made it all worth it. It was a faraway world from the small Yorkshire town where I had grown up.
A Masters in International Responsible Tourism Management closely followed and led me into tourism and marketing consultancy. I became invested in the businesses I worked with, always looking for the best way to improve and grow through tailored marketing, outstanding customer service, relevant staff training, and basic human kindness.
Along the way, a couple of Covid-19 pre-runners forced me to create survival and resilience strategies for my own business and those of my clients.
On 27 February 2010, a massive 8.8 earthquake hit the mid-south where I ran my backpackers’ hostel. I was not ready for the fallout. At all. It was the fifth largest earthquake in recorded history. Luckily, Chile is built to withstand. Sadly 525 people lost their lives, a small number considering the magnitude of the quake. Tourism came to a standstill as soon as images of the destruction hit the international headlines. Still, my business survived. It was tough, but I made it.
Then, in the early hours of 3 March 2015, the active Villarrica volcano in the town erupted. Once again, apocalyptic images, this time of lava being thrust high into the sky, were flashed around the world before dawn broke in Chile that same morning. Flights were cancelled, followed by almost all reservations. Income was reduced to zero overnight. The survival strategies I created for my clients helped us all through those dark days. I had hoped I would never need to share them again, but the world had a different plan for me.
After two decades in South America, I moved to the Austrian countryside in 2019. When Covid hit, I modified those survival strategies and launched a free six-part resources series aimed at supporting SMEs through the first stages of the crisis. They were downloaded thousands of times and were accompanied by messages of thanks from people around the world. This support has now synergised with my passion and commitment to deliver information about responsible and sustainable tourism practices in a way that is implementable, relatable, and applicable to SMEs.
Alongside my regular consulting, in 2021 I launched The School for Responsible Tourism in collaboration with Dr Harold Goodwin and the Responsible Tourism Partnership. The school is a hub where tourism business owners, destination managers, and industry thought leaders can access up-to-date resources and training. I also support the development of My Green Butler - a global sustainable hospitality solution using intelligent cloud-based solutions - in my role as Director of Training.
I believe in challenging the status quo. I believe we can generate change when we commit to the vision of a future where our children and grandchildren can experience the world as we know it, (hopefully even a better one). I believe in kindness and hard work, and ultimately I want everyone to succeed. I love the opportunities that tourism affords us, and I am deeply saddened by the struggles that the pandemic has dumped on the industry. I truly believe we can create a better future for our businesses by taking responsibility for our actions and impact, by building community, and by sharing positivity. We all need some tourism resilience, and I look forward to supporting you on your journey to building your own resilience bank too.