This week for our Inspirational Women In Travel blog, we sat down to chat with Founder and CEO of Charitable Travel, Melissa Tilling. We wanted to get to know her, and understand the steps she has taken to be successful. Take a look at what she had to say!
1. What inspired you to work in the travel industry?
At school I wanted to be a teacher, architect or maybe an astronaut but the thought of the travel industry never crossed my mind, even at 16 years old when I went on my first holiday to Spain without my parents.
2. How did you begin working in the travel industry and what was your first role?
Having studied computer science and explored for a while on a sailing boat I ‘fell into travel’ applying for a temporary job, joined Intasun Holidays in 1987 selling holiday flight seats, and never looked back!
3. How did you get to where you are in your career today?
In general being in the right place at the right time – so maybe luck, but also making my own luck being powered along by an unwavering tenacity, a capacity for far too much hard work, saying ‘I can’ rather than ‘Can I’? getting involved and being thirsty to learn and a love of making something out of nothing.
4. What is your most memorable moment creating Charitable Travel?
That eureka moment in September last year when I finally joined all the dots in my thinking to create a unique model of social enterprise and giving that coupled travel and tourism with the ability to support myriad great causes.
5. You launched your new business in the middle of a pandemic, what drove you to do that?
I launched at probably the worst time our industry has ever seen driven by an unshakeable need to be ready deliver our social purpose, to help charities fundraise by capitalising on the undoubted post-lock-down bounce-back in travel demand when our unique method of customers giving at no extra cost when they book travel.
6. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered with the creation of Charitable Travel, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge has been to launch a social enterprise of such complexity whilst ensuring it appears an effortless experience to customers and partners, with limited budget, drawing together a preparedness by business partners to join me in innovation for the sake of altruism.
7. Describe a typical day at work in 100 words?
At my desk by 7.30am because early is when I do my best work. Agreeing with the team the needs of the day. Drinking too much black coffee. Persuading my cats not to walk on my keyboard. Meeting charity and tourism partners and the media, these days by Zoom, to agree activity and action plans. Implementing our promotions and being all over social media driving home the message.
8. Which qualities were most important to you as a leader in pursuing this project?
Humility – no one owes us anything and we need to earn commitment, self-awareness – to know when I’m being too demanding, communication – at every encounter listen then speak then listen again; and realise the power and the danger of the written word especially on email; humour – laughing at myself and taking the joy from every moment; and tenacity – by the bucket load.
9. What would you say to aspiring women travel entrepreneurs?
Back yourself, you know you have reserves of strength and determination even when you feel weak. Be crystal clear about your vision, write it down and revisit that, and let that vision drive you forward BUT listen, remain humble, communicate, ask for help, learn and be prepared to evolve to maximise on new information and a changing environment.
10. What is your vision for the future of travel and tourism?
I believe the industry will evolve and become ever more thoughtful about the destinations, people and environment we depend on for our wanderlust. We are at a transitional time where the quest for holiday gratification at any expense will be overtaken by questioning the sustainability of the travel product we are both selling and buying and this will shape our choices.
11. How do you relax when not working?
I used to travel travel and travel again, now I am happy pottering about at home with not much to do. Loving my cats, holding my friends and family dear and experiencing that lifelong rollercoaster relationship with fitness and food, always trying to do better. Oh, I do like to strum a guitar now and again and have country music as a guilty pleasure.