travelBulletin

Great Dane laps up Contiki job

contikiAppointed to lead youth specialist touring company Contiki is a dream role for Casper Urhammer. Nearly 12 months into the position, GUY DUNDAS sat down with the Danish-born, Geneva-based e-commerce and digital marketing whiz to see how he’s adapting to the career change and hear about what he’s got planned.

Before taking to the helm at Contiki in November last year, Urhammer spent five years at group buying enterprise Groupon, witnessing the evolution of the brand from the inside, where he rose to managing director of sales and marketing, Australia & New Zealand. Moving up through the ranks at Groupon also gave the Dane a chance to see more of the world and base himself in the US, UK and Europe.

“I was there from its early days as a start-up to an established business to a publically listed company, it was a fantastic journey. I think in five years I matured 25 years.”

While in Australia and heading up Groupon’s growth strategy in Asia, Urhammer “came across” Contiki.
One thing led to another, and nine months of talks later, he found himself assigned to head up the 18-35 year old holiday specialist’s global operation.

Until the end of last year, the iconic youth oriented brand – one of the many travel brands within The Travel Corporation stable – was headed up by former ceo, now chairman David Hosking, supported by managing directors in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA and South Africa.

“Groupon was amazing. We did some amazing things, we grew so fast. Although it was fantastic and amazingly fun, it was great to jump onto a business like Contiki which is so identifiable and stable and takeover to make it a better business,” Urhammer said.

“I think it’s probably every businessman’s dream, doing what I’m doing for Contiki, because it’s such a well-known business.

“I’m coming in to manage a business that is so well run – nothing is broken, cool brand, great product – and tweaking it, making it a little better and growing the business.”

Pressed by travelBulletin about what “tweaks” are planned, he said: “The guy I’m replacing, he started as a bus driver over 40 years ago and he has done incredibly well, but he has been around for many years and can run the business blindfolded. But as you get older (as I will experience as well), running a youth brand, someone needs to be on par with technology trends and with marketing trends and so forth, and that’s some of the skills I bring onboard. And then of course a can-do attitude, a will to want to take the brand even further and a slightly different view of certain characteristics.”

Aspects Urhammer will steer include a new website, earmarked for a launch in early 2016. An e-learning specialist program for travel agents is also on the agenda.

“We want to make it easier for our customers to figure out what Contiki is about online. Our website is coming up to nine years old and it needs an overhaul. We are looking into that, and all for the purpose of showing content and exploring what a ‘Contiki’ would be about, so we can send them to the agent to buy a trip,” he said.

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