For our latest blog we speak to Dr. Manal Kelig, the MENA Region Executive Director of Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). Manal focuses on expanding the reach and impact of ATTA’s work through developing and facilitating networking and professional growth opportunities with various tourism organizations, media contacts and tourism boards. Manal consults regularly for many leading development organizations on Tourism development projects and also co-founded Gateway To Egypt for Tourism research & Travel Marketing and Great Wonders of Egypt for Responsible & Sustainable Travel. Manal received her BA & Ph.D. degrees in Tourism & Egyptology from the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management in Cairo.
Below Manal tells us about her experiences in the industry and why more women should join.
1. What inspired you to work in the travel industry?
I have to say that I started working in the travel industry by pure coincidence. But once I got there and started thinking about it and contemplating whether I should be in the travel industry or not, it was the people, the new faces and new causes every day that inspired me to choose the travel industry as my career path.
2. How did you begin working in the travel industry and what was your first role?
I began working in the travel industry as a tour manager and a tour guide, which was very inspirational for me. It was the interactions and conversations that I had with the visitors that inspired me to remain in this job. From there I went to creating products from a tour guide point of view.
3. How did you get to where you are in your career today?
It was a long journey! A lot of persistence, innovation and hard work, I would even say working harder at proving myself as a woman and trying to combat the stereotypes around women in tourism.
4. What attributes would help someone aspiring to your role?
Getting to reach this role took a lot of time, effort and patience. These qualities are important for every woman in the travel industry to have, or at least use as a tool to make sure to get where they want in the industry.
5. Describe a typical day at work in 100 words?
So a typical day of work will start with me opening up my eyes to check emails – which is a really bad habit but because I play so many roles, being connected is very important for me. Productivity is always the number one goal, so I love to start my day with doing some emails,
which feels like little wins and boosts my mood, and then moving from emails to calls and meetings, lastly ending the day with more emails. It’s all really a 24/7 nonstop operation.
6. What is your most memorable moment working within the travel industry?
Faces of people after deep conversations! Especially conversations about shaking stereotypes and exchanging information between the east and west; like in my case being from North Africa, it opens up the discussions about similarities and differences, and noticing how we all more similar than different. These experiences play a big motivational role for me.
7. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your role and how did you overcome this?
One of the biggest challenges is – again – being heard and getting the attention. At one stage when I was still at middle management level, I was in a constant situation of my ideas not being heard by the board members of different companies, which made me have to come up with new approaches, which was very hard and challenging. I believe the Adventure Travel Trade Association gives other women the chance to be heard; to have their ideas come through, without the kinds of struggle other people had to go through in the last 10 to 15 years.
8. What drives you to succeed?
My family, who are patient with me in my crazy 24/7 productive cycle, and for the respect they have for what I do, which makes me feel I should never stop and keep moving on.
9. What would be your top three tips for women who are interested in starting a career in travel and tourism industry?
· Planning and knowing what they want. They need to paint a roadmap, which can change overtime – which is fine – but at least there needs to be some clear set goals and milestones in which they can follow.
· Looking outside the box. Don’t be a cliché, try to find your innovative part and don’t be shy in showing it, because it’s your main tool to be different and successful.
· Persistence. You need to be persistent and patient. There will be failures but this should not stop you from moving on.
10. What one change could help more women become leaders in the travel industry?
Women don’t see a career in the travel industry. There are not enough women in senior board positions, which drives young women away from pursuing a career in travel. I believe if they see more opportunities for advancement in the travel industry, many women will join the industry not just as a short fleeting career stage, but as a long-term career path.
11. How do you relax when not working?
This will sound very bad but I am guilty at this one, as I relax by emptying my inbox! Along with that I enjoy having conversations with my daughters, husband and girlfriends. I have a group of girlfriends whom I love to interact with, and I consider ‘meditation’ as lying in deep conversations with people around me! This is where I get inspiration and get to chance to listen to ideas and experiences, all of which help me to rejuvenate and get out of my own world, declutter and then go back to work.
A quote with Holly Addison
Holly Addison is the head of Consumer Digital & Hospitality at Odgers Berndston, Global Technology Practice & Co- Founder of Plan B mentoring.
What would be your top three tips for women who are interested in starting a career in the travel and tourism industry?
· Build your network. Seek out mentors who can help you and advice you on the way, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, help and support. There are plenty of people and networks like women in travel that could help.
· Be clear on what it is you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. What is it about hospitality that appeals to you, is that where you draw your energy from in term of people and providing great experiences. Because it’s a true meritocracy, so be clear on why you want to come into hospitality.
· Be confident. Believe that you can and you will.