INSPIRING STORY by JC Inspire
Fred Van Eijk – Managing Director – Travel Counsellors
TAKE TIME to do what makes YOUR SOUL HAPPY
Long ago, Netherlands-born Fred van Eijk dreamt of travelling the world, living and working all around the globe. It’s a goal that he has certainly achieved, and then some. But like many members of our travel community, the Interim Managing Director of Travel Counsellors Australia started out on a very different path, studying French in Paris before returning to the Netherlands to start his studies in International Law. But he soon figured out law was just not for him. With his passion for travelling the world, he soon realised that he need to embark on an international career and so, at the age of 22, he started his own travel agency.
It was there that he learnt some strong business skills as well as the importance of networking. By forging strong connections with the generation above him, he succeeded in building the business up, before selling it so he could pursue his enduring global career dream. Fred moved to the UK and took an exciting role as a buyer and product manager for Airtours, the third largest company of its kind in the country.
“I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my LIST”
There, he got to develop products in places as far afield as Greece and Florida, enabling him to learn about working in different cultures. His next move was the switch to the other side of the table, instead selling accommodation as International Travel Trade Director at Forte & Le Meridien Hotels, then one of the largest hotel firms in the world, at the company’s corporate office in London. When there was a take-over and the company was sold to Granada, lots of directors left but Fred choose to stay. The result? He was promoted to the role of managing director of all of the travel businesses. “So I ran their boutique tailor made travel companies,” he explains to Jito. “After a few years I was approached by Airtours again and they hired me as MD for their continental travel companies and I moved back to the Netherlands.”
STAY PATIENT and TRUST YOUR JOURNEY
But a period of crisis management resulted in the closing of many businesses and the end of his own role. But he wasn’t to stay put for long. He was soon headhunted for the position of chief executive at the Qatar Tourism Authority and of course he leapt at the chance. It was a great time in Fred’s career building a tourist destination. “I remember sitting in the Royal Palace of Qatar with the Emir,” Fred recalls to Jito. But it was relatively short-lived. After two years, he decided to return to Europe where he was hired as a consultant by Travel Counsellors to help with their overseas expansion. “When they opened the Netherlands they asked me to join them and I was delighted to do so,” Fred says. “I founded Netherlands 12 years ago now and currently there are 170 Travel Counsellors.”
BELIEVE YOU CAN and you’re half way there
Fred started from scratch on the kitchen table. It was an unknown business model in the country and there was a lot of doubt and naysayers who were not sure it was ever going to work. “But we have proven it was a great success as we now have a leading business which we followed up by opening up in neighbouring Belgium two years ago.” It was the perfect move to help him achieve his long-term dream.
“I immediately said yes 12 years ago because I always wanted to have an international career and Travel Counsellors had those sorts of international plans,” he explains.
“I have a great management team in place now in the Netherlands so it has allowed me to come to Australia as Interim Managing Director as there was a need for stronger focus on the business and our future and we felt it was best to do that internally.”
It’s the LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE
So how does Fred feel about the move Down Under? He’s only been here for three months but already, things are going “very well”. “I’ve made huge progress is understanding the local market and local needs,” he says. “It’s not a new job for me, it’s just about understanding a new market.” There are currently 150 Travel Counsellors in Australia and Fred wants to double that figure. “It isn’t a number game though,” he stresses. “It is about getting the right people who fit our DNA.”
It’s that very DNA that got Fred hooked in the first place and that has prevented him from being lured to other roles in other companies as he had in previous jobs. “We are a very unique company,” he explains. “It’s not just about caring for our customers but its caring about our staff and our Travel Counsellors – the strong family ethos and way of working makes people feel very comfortable.”
TAKE TIME to do what makes YOUR SOUL HAPPY
The global scale of the organisation gives it a lot of buying power in terms of both product and air which benefits the individual Travel Counsellors. In addition, it invests substantial funds into IT, marketing and digital development, building the systems in-house so they are the perfect fit. “We are increasingly working in a digital world and we take that very seriously,’ Fred reveals. “We have a Digital Marketing Director on board and more initiatives in the pipeline.” In addition, the company employs business development coaches as well as personal counsellors to help Travel Counsellors who may be struggling with their mental health, wellbeing or family issues.
“So it’s not only about business and it is not about the money – money is a result of that care and passion,” Fred says.
Here is FRED’S ADVICE FOR MAKING IT in the world of Travel…
- Stay ahead of the game. The travel industry is highly influenced by trends in consumer behaviour, IT, digital communications and human interest. Knowing your customers and your future customers, seeing the changes to come and being prepared for it makes you stand out from the rest.
- Travel. There is nothing better than to experience yourself what it is all about.
- Read. Know what is going on in the industry, in the economy, the society and in the world.
- Network. Our industry is about people and most are great to be with. Build up your profile.
- Develop. Go for management and leadership courses and get a mentor. You can never have enough training.
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