Ever wanted to quit your job and follow your heart and your passion? We all have at some point. That’s why you will enjoy this story of a top banker who quit her job to launch a travel company. She is now a top CEO.
What made you move from doing 10 years in the city to starting up a tour operator in Peru? What job did you do in London?
My career started when I began working in financial services in London, having graduated college with a degree in finance. Back then I was far more fascinated by the dynamics of the global financial markets and never considered that I would one day set up my own business. However, as time went on, I started to realise that there was more to life than just making a salary and became increasingly aware that I wanted to do something more meaningful.
My first job was working for Chase Manhattan Bank in London, where I participated in the prestigious credit training programme. I then started selling bonds at Chase, where I developed the Southern European Market (Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Malta). Then I worked at UBS securities where I did corporate finance (Ipos and M&A) also with the Southern European market. Then I quit.
I went off travelling around the world for a year. My last job was working for Barings where I was a stockbroker for Latin American stocks. By this time, (1992) Latin America had stabilised and was starting to blossom and prosper and stock markets were booming. I became the Peru expert.
Recognising a gap in the market that I had the experience and the sensitivity to fill was the most vital thing. That led me to start up Aracari, whose commitment was to showcase the rich heritage of Peru to avid clientele, while benefitting those who are less privileged.
You connect travellers with new contacts out in Peru. How did you start doing this and why do you do it?
I’ve always been incredibly passionate about travel because I am interested in exploring, curious about the world. With my knowledge of Peru, friends started to approach me asking me to help plan their visits to my home country. I slowly built up an extensive network of connections in Peru, from artists and archaeologists to conservationists and chefs. Then I began creating bespoke itineraries and experiences for friends, while supporting local businesses and communities.
In addition, having witnessed first-hand the struggles so many of the population faced each day, I felt very strongly that I had a moral obligation to give back and contribute to society. Two decades on, Aracari still functions with social responsibility at the heart of its operations, and is committed to working alongside those who share our enthusiasm and commitment to sharing the best of Peru and South America with the rest of the world.
What are your thoughts on the travel industry. What challenges and successes is it facing at the moment?
In the olden days, when travel was expensive and difficult, only the privileged few could venture to faraway destinations and explorations. A natural selection so to speak. Nowadays, consumerism has invaded the travel arena and many people who really don’t have an interest to explore and get to know places and their people, can actually afford to consume the travel product. This may sound elitist and it probably is but it is the masses who travel without the aim to understand where they are going, but only to consume, that destroy the destinations. This is why poorly managed tourism can be very detrimental. Tour operators, hoteliers and all those in the tourism equation need to understand the responsibility toward the local environments and the communities.
What would your advice be to business leaders and CEOs looking to invest in the travel industry or make a complete career change?
Tourism and hospitality are service industries. Especially tour operating, where you are creating and selling an intangible asset is operationally vert intensive. Unlike with a hotel or a cruise company where you actually have a tangible product for sale. Your brand is your people and the ability to deliver a high quality experience. This is very hard work and difficult to scale or delegate. My advice to anyone venturing into this sector is to know this – it is not all about travel and glamour. There is a lot of legwork behind each sale, and the margins are not large even in the best cases.
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