A day in the life…
The Travel Corporation is one of the world’s largest travel businesses, with brands that span the globe — and Australia is a key part of the company both in terms of customers and operations. From hotels to ground operations to touring, coaches and cruising, TTC has a massive portfolio.
But how do the thousands of moving pieces in such an enormous international organisation work together to produce the desired result?
This month Bruce Piper was given an exclusive look behind the scenes of TTC to catch a glimpse of what it takes to make it all happen each day — from reservations and sales right through to the CEO.
Brett Tollman, Chief Executive Officer The Travel Corporation (TTC)
5:30am — No matter what city I’m in — it’s an early start as I’m straight onto important emails on the laptop (rather than my iPhone, as I find it easier and faster to respond and download documents). I then spend 15-30 minutes catching up on the news, a quick shower, grab a cup of coffee and off to work.
6:30am — When at home, it takes me about 30 minutes to drive to work as there is no traffic at that hour, and I pass the time planning the day, thinking of new ideas and key priorities. If I am in London however, I walk to work as it’s such a wonderful journey through the city; and in Australia, John Veitch (our great CEO there) picks me up and we discuss the day of meetings ahead. Thanks to technology, I have the ease of running a global business from anywhere in the world. I never turn my phone off in case of an emergency or an opportunity that needs to be addressed — my colleagues know I’m available 24/7. (In Kenya last summer though, where I travelled with my family for a ME to WE purpose driven trip, we had minimal wi-fi, so it was the first time in 25 years that I had an “out-of-office” message).
7:00am — Coffee in hand (with oat milk — I am trying a new gluten and dairy free regimen), I arrive at the LA office and pass by Uniworld and U by Uniworld’s CEO, Ellen Bettridge, who is also always in early. I’m straight onto my emails. My view is that I’m there to support my team first and foremost — my responsibility is to respond, help, alleviate road blocks, provide additional resources, direction and recommendations, so that’s where I focus my important responses.
7:45am — A quick call with my two amazing sisters, Toni and Vicki, to touch base and keep our very dynamic relationship strong and close. Toni is finishing off designs for two of our ships and a couple of our hotels with our mother and Vicki is working on some new marketing campaigns for the hotels.
8:00am — I scroll through the news of the day using Flipboard — an app that consolidates news feeds from a variety of publications. I also subscribe to the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times; and many industry publications from around the world.
9:00am — I share updates with our staff using a program called Yammer which we use internally to communicate — a great tool to keep all the regions connected across brands and time zones. I’ve just posted a reminder that the deadline is coming up for submissions for our Chairman’s Award, where members of our team get to win $150,000.
9:15am — Time for a conference call with Ulla Hefel Bhler, the CEO of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold and her global marketing director, Joanna Duncan. We’re developing a new video and looking at ways to market this.
I speak to our global leaders on a weekly basis and every two months we have a group call with our executive committee of 20. We use Skype for Business — great both from a cost and collaboration standpoint.
Calls are scheduled well in advance, across the day and sometimes into the evening (though not when I am at home — only 100 days a year — family time is very precious).
10:15am — I check in every day with our chairman (and my father),who is such a visionary and wise man. His guidance and direction is always so valuable, and every day we speak about various opportunities, trends and issues to address around the business.
10:30am — Ellen joins me in my office to plan the upcoming gathering of 500 of our onboard teams for Uniworld and U to discuss what’s new in our culinary offering and the year ahead. We’re also planning on putting in place elegant new uniform designs across all the fleet.
11:00am — I work with my EA to plan and book my travel up to a year out to get the best fares, as well as organise my trips around what’s important each market, such as travel expos in Australia twice a year.
11:30am — Conference call with the board of our TreadRight Foundation, to discuss the latest project we’ve just launched — the use of Anatolian dogs to protect the almost extinct Cape Leopard in South Africa.
12:00pm — I’m speaking with Neil Rodgers, the MD for Adventure World, on how they can better message and sell the three purpose driven ME to WE trips on their website (we.org) to support this fantastic charity.
12:30pm — On occasion, I have lunch meetings in LA, but otherwise I eat on-the-go whilst planning out strategies and follow-up — such short and long-term opportunities and challenges. I also have a strategy team that looks at the market 5-10 years out.
1:30pm — I spend about 20% of my time on technology as it’s so important for the long term success of any business today. I am currently discussing with our team a very large investment into a cutting edge new phone system, to provide better capability & more efficient service in our contact centres.
2:00pm — A 30 minute call with one of our finance directors reviewing a couple of red flags to resolve in one of our businesses.
2:30pm — A quick call with the long-standing MD of Red Carnation Hotels, Jonathan Raggett, to discuss a marketing campaign we’re bringing out around innovative new cocktails, with mixology classes at each hotel.
3:00pm –– Invention and innovation are also important, whether it’s in marketing, product, sales techniques or new service touches. Our chairman, my father, always taught me: “focus on selling our differences”. Almost every day, I also have product/experience development discussions across the brands — the rest of the afternoon is filled with these executive discussions and conference calls.
4:00pm to 6:30pm — More emails and follow-up, including some welcome letters to new members of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC.org), a private-public forum to focus governments around the world on the value and importance of travel and tourism (I am the vice chair of membership).
7:00pm — Home is always family time — as I walk in I’m greeted by one of our adopted dogs (we have four) and I catch up with each of our three kids on how their day was.
It’s important we all have a reasonably good work-life balance and I’m as disciplined as I can be on this, being away from home so much. So I always schedule family time into my calendar — I book family holidays as early as I do business travels and keep many special family and school events in my diary (I do need to get much better at this though).
7:30pm — I love cooking. In my spare time I read up on foodie magazines, am always buying cook books and watch the Food Network to get new ideas. Tonight, I’m cooking with the smoker outside and have made a few different salads, having visited the farmers’ market in Santa Monica over the weekend (how lucky are we) and picked lettuces from our small veggie garden.
8:00pm — It’s dinner time. We don’t have any mobile phone activity during this time. (I do keep my phone on for emergencies, but there is no social media at the dining table!)
10:30pm — I check in on emails quickly and respond to anything pressing, before I go to bed and allow myself 5-6 hours of sleep. (I love sleeping at home with our four dogs and my wife cuddled up together! That’s the best luxury of all for me).
Jen Pagett, Reservations & Direct Sales Uniworld & U by Uniworld
7:00am — I’m almost always in a rush in the mornings, I try to leave as early as I can to beat the Sydney traffic. I quickly eat my toast before I head out the door to pick up Lina Trimarchi, Uniworld’s trade marketing executive. We sit in bumper to bumper traffic for the next 45 minutes and chat about our day ahead.
8:30am — We arrive at work and I prepare for my day. I check over emails that have come through overnight from our global team and respond to some of the urgent customer queries. I also write myself a to-do list as there is nothing more satisfying than crossing something off!
10:00am — Today I get to sit in on a meeting with our TTC PR team who have all been busy prepping for our upcoming events surrounding Uniworld’s 2019 global launch across Australia. TTC and my MD, Fiona Dalton, are supportive of us learning about different aspects of the business, it allows me to understand the marketing and PR side of things, and as I’m in the beginning stages of my career, I’m so appreciative of this opportunity.
11:00am –– Today we have our team monthly catch up with Pedro Stanic (Uniworld’s contact centre manager) and Monique Guy (Uniworld’s sales executive) where we discuss all the ways we are going to improve our business — drive more business for the brands and make things more seamless for our guests and travel agents.
12:00pm — I go and grab lunch up the road at Bondi Junction Westfield with Zoe Dean, our consumer marketing executive, overlooking the water of course. We eat in the sunshine and enjoy just a few moments of peace and quiet before I go back on the phones.
1:00pm — Back at my desk and I send out some quotes and respond to emails.I also call a few passengers and agents to let them know that we only have a couple of cabins left on the departure they’re interested in, and advise it is best to book now rather than later. I also speak to a guest who has booked her first trip with Uniworld — she and her husband are very excited as they’ll also be meeting their grandchild for the first time in London prior to their journey with us! It’s these little stories from guests that delight and inspire me each day.
2:30pm — It’s time to prepare for our Melbourne Flight Centre Expo and I catch up with Tiffany Burgess, our inside sales executive. I’ll be representing both Uniworld and U by Uniworld at the expo and I’m excited to set up our amazing booths that won Best Booth in Show at both the Brisbane and Sydney expos. We run through our current offers available as well as everything I need to take with me down to Melbourne.
5:00pm — Our Global CEO, Brett Tollman is in Sydney and today he addresses everyone at TTC on the company’s current initiatives as well as plans for the future. It’s an open forum where we’re able to ask him questions regarding the business, he’s very open and honest with us. Afterwards we join him for a social event where he presents a few long-service awards, and I can network and catch up with my colleagues across the brands.
7:00pm — I head home as I still need to pack for Melbourne and go to bed! Tomorrow is going to be a good, busy day at the expo and I can’t wait!
Jody Grossfeldt, Head of Guest Experiences AAT Kings & Inspiring Journeys
4.45am — Rise and shine. I head out the door and drive five minutes to the gym for my 5am HIIT class. I try to get to the gym most days as this helps get focused for the day ahead.
6.15am — Shower, get dressed and am now ready to tackle the day. I wake my children as we need to leave the house by 6.45am. It’s a busy time in the morning, bags packed, hair done, jump in the car and we’re on our way!
6.45am — Travel time to school is only five minutes so it’s a quick drop, kiss goodbye at before school care ahead of my commute to our Alexandria office. My morning drive time can vary from half an hour to two hours — I need to ensure I am always on the road by 7.
8.00am — Have made it in an hour, fantastic! Check my emails, check meeting schedule, quick office chat and the day has begun.
9.00am — The first of my weekly catch ups with our Sydney operations manager to discuss our upcoming travel director training session which will be held in NZ. We love planning this annual event where we get all of our travel directors together to discuss the year that’s been and the year ahead. A week of work that involves fun activities such as zip lining in Rotorua, team building goal sessions, voice techniques and overall product improvements. The wheels are in motion as we prepare everything for this.
10.00am — Chat to drivers and ops team re an upcoming project. We plan on shooting something exciting — lights, camera, action!
10.25am — Continue with my development plan for our award-winning Ayers Rock BBQ — we are working on making this unforgettable experience even better. I start looking for new table centre pieces, lighting, clapping sticks — tiny touches that we pride ourselves on.
12.00pm — Uber arrives and we are on our way to the studio. A short drive and we are ready for our five minutes of fame!
12.15pm — This is very exciting, we meet the production team to discuss the concept. Under the bright lights we get ready to shoot. Props in place, outfits on, ready to go! Take 1… Take 2. Take 3, 4, 5. There are lots of laughs — on take 6 we nail it, after a fun filled few hours. Our guests are going to love it.
2.15pm — Quick lunch with the team to thank them for their help. I really enjoy the chance for some downtime and spend time with the team out of the office after a busy morning.
3.00pm –– Last meeting for the day. This afternoon is all about Inspiring Journeys. We’re in a very exciting development phase with Inspiring Journeys, our boutique brand offering small group experiences around Australia and NZ. I sit down with our two key product managers to discuss proposed new itineraries and regions — working out the routes, look at potential accommodation and inclusions as a starting point. These will now be taken by the team to develop further.
5.00pm — Quick phone call from my children. Home safely from school and ready for the after school activities. My 10-year old tells me he is ready for cricket and that I need to pick him up at 7pm. This is one of the usual after school activities between my four children, aged 10, eight and six-year old twins.
5.05pm — Quick look at emails, respond to anything urgent, check messages, clean desk.
5.30pm — Home time. Drive home takes a little longer than expected due to an accident on the motorway, but this gives me a chance to call our Northern Territory manager.
6.55pm — Arrive at my son’s cricket training to pick him up. While I wait, check phone and emails that have come through on my drive home. With the time difference in many of the regions where we operate, a number of emails come through around this time.
7.15pm — Arrive home, cook dinner. An easy dinner tonight, chicken salad — one that we will all eat! Put on some washing, check the kids’ homework, sign permission notes for the swimming carnival, make sandwiches… my second job is well and truly underway!
8.00pm — Kids’ bedtime. I jump into my twin daughters’ room and read them a quick story, then lights out. My two sons are happy to read before lights out.
8.15pm — I head out for my evening walk. Each night I try to walk at least 5-6km. This is a way I clear my head and my time for myself.
9.10pm — Hang out the washing, clean up, do the dishes. I am one of those people who cannot leave anything not done before I head to bed. Then I can head to bed knowing that we are all organised to start a new day.
9.45pm –– Jump into bed, grab my Kindle. I’m in the middle of reading a very good Barbara Freethy book. I usually only get a few pages in before I fall asleep but it helps me relax after a busy day.
Matt Cameron-Smith, Managing Director, Trafalgar
5:30am — As soon as I wake I check the prior day’s sales and make a cup of tea. If I get the chance (which is not often enough) I grab a quick surf before work, at Manly Beach. However if there are no waves then I’ll go for a run instead along the coastline — I like to stay active and have a hit of fresh air to get the endorphins going.
6:30am — I leave the house once I’ve had a chance to say good morning to my three kids, help get them ready for school and have breakfast. I’ll drive our younger two to school a few times a week if I can — this means I’ll leave a little later but I really enjoy spending the quality time with them in the morning. Once I’ve dropped them off I’m listening to either KIIS or Smooth FM, depending on my mood.
7.30am — I grab some breakfast from the local caf in Bondi Junction. We’re spoilt for choice here but I normally head to About Life and go straight to the office and check my schedule of the day ahead and run through emails.
8:00am — I make my rounds through the office saying hi to the team and set aside time to discuss the prior day, what is ahead for today and the rest of the week. We’ve gone out with 100% departures for some trips through Europe and Hawaii, so it’s important to ensure everyone from marketing to digital and PR are all on the same page with messaging and roll out of the campaign.
9.30am —Now it’s time for the first (and only) coffee of the day as I launch into either internal or external meetings — this can range from meeting with marketing partners to our finance team or other teams in the business. I’ve been known to be dragged into a photo shoot from time to time! We like to give these shoots a voice and make it personable with familiar faces in the industry to push our key message.
12.30pm — Lunch is usually eaten “el desko”… at my desk… The afternoon is filled with meetings and a performance review with the team. We tend to do a lot of “start, stop, continue” thinking to ensure we stay nimble and forward thinking. The needs of our partners and the business change often and we always want to be a step ahead.
3:00pm — I present the winner of the peer nominated #OneTribe Award — It’s a monthly initiative to recognise outstanding achievements and to praise individuals in our team. Staff nominate who they think deserves to win a $100 voucher which is to be spent on our motto of living The Good Life. We all enjoy snacks for an afternoon fix… then it’s back to emails.
4:00pm — I’m often in an Uber on my way to the domestic airport, which could be a flight anywhere interstate to ensure I’m ready to hit the ground running the following day. I do around 6-8 international trips per year so I might even be heading to Europe late evening which means a Skype call with the family then off to the airport! In which case I like to unwind on the plane with a text book as I’m currently studying for my MBA.
7:00pm — As for dinner… that could be at 30,000 feet or for a home cooked meal with the family. My favourite dish is usually a BBQ and cooking is a great way to unwind. I’ll usually have a red wine at dinner but right now I’m on 90 days without wine so I can only dream about it. I have at least two conference calls with our Geneva office per week and that tends to be around 8pm after which is one last check of emails then if home, I ensure more time with the family before trying to get a reasonably early night.