MC: Who is easier in the travel business - a man or a woman? If you divide your business into “male” and “female”, what is yours?
Heidi Kunkel: In my experience, gender doesn't matter in the travel business. I have worked in many, very different countries, and it seems to me that tourism is one of the most open industries. The tourism industry attracts people who love to communicate and discover other cultures, so gender issues are not as relevant here as in other industries. I am happy to work for Club Med, a company that values diversity and strives to develop the talents of all of its employees, regardless of gender.
MC: What professional qualities do you need to have to be successful in the tourism business?
HK: You have to love what you do, because tourism is built on passion, positive attitude and energy. And of course, you need to love to travel (and be able to cope with jet lag). Ability to speak with people in the same language, impartiality, desire and willingness to get acquainted with new cultures and views.
Due to the increasing penetration of digital technologies into our lives, the model of doing business in tourism is changing by leaps and bounds - as, indeed, in other industries. As consumer behavior changes, so does our way of working, selling, and interacting with them. In order to adapt to changed consumer behavior, we need to rethink and fundamentally change the way we work. Required qualities are flexibility, speed of reaction and willingness to change.
MC: What did you dream about as a child, what kind of career?
HK: When I was little, I dreamed of working at the UN. As I grew up and started traveling, I discovered a passionate love for other cultures. Most of our Club Med towns have guests from more than two dozen different countries, so I like to think that this is about the same as working in a small but real UN.
MC: What should a woman be ready for when striving for a career level like yours? And what should be ready to sacrifice?
HK: It seems to me that here one should think in terms of “choice” rather than “victims”. In order to reach heights in any area of life, we make a conscious choice, focusing on this particular aspect of it. Such choices often require compromises in other areas. I love what I do, and I myself have chosen this lifestyle. Of course, it is not for everyone, but in the end I am fully responsible for my choice.
MC: Are kids and career compatible?
HK: I believe that this is possible - with a certain level of support. If a woman is lucky to have a partner, and he is willing and able to support her, then finding the right balance between family and career is not so difficult.
MC: What do you like most about your job?
HK: Traveling to different countries, meeting new people, getting to know other cultures. Working with wonderful people who are open to everything new and have a positive attitude towards life.
MC: What is the best professional advice (or lesson) you received early in your career?
HK: My stepfather once told me: "If you see that you have to do something, just take it and do it."
MC: Was (or is there) a person in your life who became an example for you?
HK: I was very lucky with loving and always ready to support my parents, including my stepfather, who held a high position in a large company. My father had a strong influence on me. He taught me to be independent, not rely on others and always live within my means.
MC: What do you consider to be your main professional achievement?
HK: I would not call it an achievement, but most of all I remember working in Japan after the 2011 tsunami. I was amazed at the reaction of the Japanese, it became an important life lesson for me in respect for each other and humanity.
MC: What principles do you follow in life?
HK: I will quote one of my favorite sayings of Gandhi: "If you want the world to change, change yourself."
MC: Travel business in Europe, Russia and Asia - are there any fundamental differences? Where is it easier, where is it more difficult and why?
HK: As a rule, there are always a lot of travelers at European airports, long lines for security checks, therefore, it is better to arrive at the airport in advance and prepare for the strictest control. Unfortunately, strict security controls (and long lines) are a necessary and inevitable part of any traveler's life. They are much more visible in Europe than in parts of Asia, mainly due to recent events.
MC: You yourself probably travel often - share your life hacks for women who are always on the road: what do you always have with you in your cosmetic bag? How do you deal with jetlag?
HK: I travel almost every week and can fully pack my suitcase in less than an hour. I try to travel light and not check in anything to avoid possible delays. Quality brand products are important when you are at home, and on the go, I prefer something light and comfortable. All my cosmetics must fit in one small cosmetic bag and comply with airline regulations. The simpler the better!
The fight against jetlag for me is to maintain a positive attitude, adapt to the local time as quickly as possible, take vitamins, get enough sleep, eat right, drink plenty of water, play sports and, most importantly, enjoy the trip. Visiting different countries, meeting new people and unusual cultures can be a bottomless source of positive emotions and rewarding experiences. Concentrate on these incredible features, not jet lag.
MC: How do you spend your free time? Do you like to travel, or has it already become a job?
HK: I have very little free time, and therefore I really appreciate it. I like walking in the sun, shopping, meeting friends and family, I like listening to music.
MC: Do you like to cook? What is your favorite food?
HK: I love to cook on weekends - very simple, healthy meals. I like salads, vegetables and fish the most (I don't eat red meat).
MC: Favorite city?
HK: It's hard for me to name one, because there are so many beautiful cities in the world, and each of them has its own character. I am a city dweller by nature, I like big and busy cities.
MC: Favorite brand?
MC: Favorite vacation spot?
HK: In the sunshine, resting and relaxing with my friend, great food and great wine.
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