Well known to the Travel & Tourism Industry, Carol has served as Director of Marketing UK & Europe for the Caribbean Tourism Organization for more than 9 years.
Here she tells us about her career and provides some really helpful insights to inspire you all!
What inspired you to work in the travel industry?
I have always had a passion for other cultures – especially performing arts; food and people , and after taking my first trip to the Caribbean at the age of 18, I decided that this was where I wanted my future to lie, and I have not looked back!
How did you begin working in the travel industry and what was your first role?
My first role was with Portland Holidays as a Reservations Advisor – I thought I looked smashing dressed from head to toe in red! I saw the position advertised in the Evening Standard and went for it! I had only travelled to Jamaica at the time, but I was so passionate about the Caribbean even at that age, that I had no trouble passing the telephone interview, as I couldn’t stop gushing about my experiences! Passion opened the door for me!
How did you get to where you are in your career today?
I realised form early on in my career, that to really get ahead you had to be knowledgeable. I took every training and development opportunity that was available to me; and I also aligned myself with successful people. I recall reading on more than one occasion, that the best people to learn from are those who have been successful at what they do. That’s not to say they haven’t failed, but how they pick themselves up and start all over again if they must. I have also studied many leaders, particularly females and looked at their style, and how they overcome challenges and break through the glass ceiling. To move up in your career, you need to be brave, and confidently go after higher positons, even if you are not 100% sure, go for it!
What attributes would help someone aspiring to your role?
You definitely have to be willing to roll your sleeves up and get involved! Sometimes it’s a case of all hands on deck! You have to be sociable; culturally aware but maintain a level of professional as you don’t always have to deal with pleasant situations – particularly if you are handling a crisis. Its important to be approachable; knowledgeable and professional! I believe strongly that when you work for destinations – you really need to embody the destination – believe in its values and respect the people, their culture and heritage. I struggle to understand individuals who ‘talk down’ the destination they represent!
Describe a typical day at work in 100 words?
I tackle my emails first as there are hundreds on a daily basis. We coordinate events across the UK, Europe and the Caribbean, so there are quite a few meetings to look at our progress and flag up any challenges! As we work with 24 member countries we are constantly monitoring all channels for issues that impact on our destinations ! I get asked to speak regularly, so we prepare papers, presentations and interviews! I come in bright an early with my day planned out and then one telephone call or email – can definitely change the course of the day!
What is your most memorable moment working within the travel industry?
It hasn’t happened yet! I have so many wonderful experiences, particularly when I visit our destinations and engage with communities! I am fortunate to have such an enjoyable career, that no one thing jumps out at me, but sometimes, when I am speaking at an event running a training session, I wish that even once before she passed, my mother had had the opportunity to join me on my travels.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your role and how did you overcome this?
It’s sad to say in this day and age, and particularly with so many diversity agendas; but the biggest challenge for me is still being treated ‘less than’ as a black woman. I have had people look through me – as they look to welcome the ‘director for the caribbean’; I have travelled overseas and witnessed other speakers being given VIP treatment whilst I was sent to ‘join the line’ I have even had one incident where a hotel (in the UK) upgraded a non-Caribbean staff member to the highest room category – it even had a treadmill; and kept me in the lowest room category!
What drives you to succeed?
I love the Caribbean, I love what I do, and I continue to acquire the knowledge, skills and experience to support what I do!
What would be your top three tips for women who are interested in starting a career in the travel and tourism industry?
First of all understand the industry – there are major differences between a career in travel and a career in tourism! Whatever your passion get the knowledge! Formal training is just as important as on the job experience – you need both skills set. Be nice – I don’t mean be a pushover; but be someone that people genuinely want to be around and work with! Work should not be unpleasant, and the people we work with do actually take up a lot of our time – so be nice!
What one change could help more women become leaders in the travel industry?
All too often I see one representations of people – particularly when I look at the speaker line-up within our industry. Women need to demand and a greater voice in our industry! And I say demand, because we need to be strong in ensuring that we are seen and heard. We have a massive contribution to make – and there should be a place on every platform for us to make a valuable input. So in summary I want women – all women to have the same platform as men, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t!
How do you relax when not working?
I have now come to the realisation that I am not superwoman and that I am constantly making lifestyle changes to enhance my mind, body and soul! It’s no secret that I need a minimum of eight hours sleep; I have heard people say, that sleep is over-rated but it is not – we need to recharge particularly during a period of crisis or massive workloads! I have become a real Zumba fan and try to go on Saturday mornings – as long as I am not travelling! As well as being a trained life coach and mentor; I am quite inspirational so I have a ton of books that I dip into depending on where my mind is at! I am also a great cook and naturally love to travel!