Like many spaces in the industry, the majority of players are men. However, women have continually cut a niche for themselves and are now a force to reckon in the travel industry.
In this four-part series, we talked to four women who have years of experience in the travel industry and this is what they said about their journey.
Today, we feature Ms Rashida Pereira, the General Manager at Fourways Travel Services. She is also a Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) Board Director and the Mombasa Region Liaison.
- How long have you been in this industry?
I have been in this business for the past 24years.
- When did you start this business?
I joined Fourways in 1995 with a degree in psychology. Now I am the General Manager.
- What were the challenges then and what continues to be the challenge now?
The challenges have evolved over time. When I joined Fourways, travel sold itself and it was easy to get client despite having to do it manually. Writing out the tickets manually especially for large travel groups was time consuming and tedious. With the systems in place now and technology being progressive, things are so much easier now. Storing blank tickets in the office was also a problem due to theft.
Now our main problem is competition as one has to have an edge over the rest. While before we concentrated on selling the product, now we work hard towards selling the company name through online presence. we have to market ourselves.
- What has been the highlight in your journey in this industry?
The little things we do in service to our clients that make them smile. Going beyond the call of duty to ensure customer satisfaction. For instance, I once facilitated travel for a client’s pet, they were so happy that they sent me chocolate and flowers from Mauritius.
- What has been your lowest moment?
When things go wrong and a client is unhappy has to be one of my lowest moments. As I said, we pride ourselves in customer satisfaction and when that goes wrong it becomes disheartening. I remember one time when we booked travel for a client for Hajj. We managed the booking through a third part and the client was quite unhappy with the transfers and accommodation. I tried my best at my own personal expense to find better accommodation which was quite difficult as it was peak season. It was the worst two days of my life.
- What would your advice be to women interested in this industry?
I learnt that this industry demands 100% from oneself. It is best suited for either single ladies or those that have teenagers.
I would also ask the women to try and personally experience the travel aspect of the industry. Unfortunately, the women get carried away with other aspects of living in this world and forget that to be passionate about anything one has to live the passion.
- What changes would you like to see?
I would like the travel agent fraternity to be more helpful to each other and not always be at each other’s throats. The present KATA executive has worked hard to bring trust back into the fraternity but needs more work to even out the differences.
- How do/did you manage to strike a balance between family and work?
It was hard work and unfortunately the line between family and work blurred. I would take work home and would still be dealing with clients in the evening and sometimes late in the night. I once went to work at 9pm as I thought I had forgotten to request either a meal or wheel chair for a client’s next day travel. With the internet now, work is easier and I have more time with loved ones.
9.One other thing…
The industry has come a long way. Modern technology has made everything accessible. This has intensified competition and to keep up I am now a 24-hour service travel agent. The traveller can contact me from any part of the world and get an immediate response. I can truly say that I have not met more than 50% of the people who book with us as its all on email or on the phone. This is a far cry from 20 years ago when striking a balance was tedious.
One good thing that I still admire about the past is that the interaction with clients was physical and through this I made lasting friendships. Many would come in after a travel to give feedback which most of the time was to thank us. Nowadays, client doesn’t appreciate the effort we put into ensuring they enjoy a perfect holiday and the only feedback we get are complaints even where we are not at fault.
When all has been said and done, I believe that travel consultancy is still the most fulfilling career I have experienced.