Little did I know it at the time, but 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 far away world from the small Yorkshire town where I had grown up.
A Masters in Responsible Tourism Management closely followed and moved me into tourism and marketing consultancy, always for small and independent hotels and hostels. I became invested in the businesses I worked with, always looking for the best way to improve and grow through excellent customer service and basic human kindness.
Along the way, a double-whammy of Covid-19 pre-runners forced me into creating 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 the recorded history of the planet. 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 (just some brave journalists and photographers chose to visit in the hope of a repeat show). 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 has a different plan for me.
After two decades in South America, I moved to the Austrian countryside in 2019. The wonderful internet allows me to continue to offer online consulting for independent hotels, b&bs, lodges and hostels, while also trying to be the best Mum possible to my two small kids (even when one of them hits the delete button on that management report or marketing strategy!).
I am not an expert in everything, and I have to admit that I don’t enjoy conversations that include the word "RevPar”. However, I have experienced enough about running small hotels and hostels in crisis times to know what the essential elements are that you simply cannot compromise on, even when striving to reduce costs.
I am a kind human being and I want everyone to succeed. I love the opportunities that tourism brings to the world we live in and I am deeply saddened by the struggles that this pandemic has dumped on the industry. I truly do believe though that we can create a better future for our businesses by standing tall, building community and sharing positivity. We all need some tourism resilience, and I hope you find inspiration here.