Career in focus: Chris Thistlethwaite

Chris Thistlethwaite, Country Manager Australia and New Zealand, Aircalin

1. What does your role involve and how long have you been in your current position?

I joined Aircalin in November 2016 as Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand. My role is to ensure that as many trade partners and consumers book and travel to beautiful New Caledonia as possible. I am responsible for working with trade partners to promote Aircalin as the International Airline of New Caledonia with direct flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.

2. How did you start out in your career? Were you always destined to work in the travel industry?

I actually started working in investment banking because I thought it would make me rich and happy. Truth was it was a very uninteresting industry to work in. I was fortunate to travel extensively when I was younger and so I was passionate about travel. So I decided to follow my passion and join the travel industry and I was lucky enough to land my first role with Star Cruises as a Sales Executive.

3. Did you complete formal qualifications, and do you think they are important?

Because I moved from another industry I thought it was important to gain a better understanding of the travel industry, so I completed a Certificate 3 in Travel and Tourism Sales with Qantas College (I don’t think it exists anymore).

4. What do you love about your job?

I love the travel industry because everyone knows everyone. I also love the opportunity to sell New Caledonia as a destination as it is Australia’s closest South Pacific destination but awareness is still growing….To me, that means plenty of opportunity!

5. What were some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career?

The travel industry has changed a lot since I joined and it continues to change and evolve. I was fortunate to work for Helloworld during the transition from it’s legacy brands to the new business that exists today. It was an incredibly tough period through the transition but it taught me a lot about many aspects of a large complex business and the process businesses go through to innovate and stay relevant to customers.

6. What factors were central to your success?

A determination to continually advance my career by learning new things! Since joining travel I have had roles in sales, business development, franchising, contracting and now an airline.

7. Did you have a mentor, and if so, how did you find them?

A few of my old bosses will probably read this article so I would have to say that I had many great mentors!

8. What are the keys to good business?

Have a strong business plan and a great team working with you. Also, continually evaluate your product to ensure it offers your customers what they want and expect!

9. What advice would you give to others in the industry who would like to follow in your footsteps?

Make sure you have a career progression plan in place. Your boss should know if you are interested in progressing and always put your hand up to learn new things. I’m a firm believer in the adage that hard work is of it’s own reward!

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