Last Word: Anna Guillan

In addition to her distinguished career as Kerzner International regional director of sales and marketing for Australia and New Zealand, leadership board roles with key tourism bodies, Tourism Australia and Tourism and Events Queensland, and humanitarian and charity work, Anna Guillan was recently recognised for her contribution to the nation in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list as Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

Here, she tells us about how she got her start in the industry, how it led her to where she is today and her advice to others wishing to carve out a successful career in travel.

1. How and when did you get your start in the travel industry?
I have always been involved in the travel and tourism industry, it has been my lifelong career.  I started in London when I was travelling and continued this career when I returned to Australia.

2. What is it you love about working in travel?
The variety, the versatility and the ability to make a difference. The mix of people and commerce is present every day and anchors everything you do.  The requirement to utilize all business skills: people management, customer service, strategy development and execution underpins every level of the industry.

3.      What does it mean to you to be named on the Queen’s Birthday 2017 Honours List?

It was an incredibly humbling experience to be acknowledged for significant service to the Australian tourism industry and to the community through support for social welfare and health organisations. Both of these areas are my professional and personal passions and to be recognized for simply doing what I love was truly overwhelming. 

4. What does your role with Kerzner International entail?
The development and execution of strategic sales and marketing within Australia and New Zealand for the portfolio of Kerzner resorts. One&Only has recently announced the expansion of the portfolio with the inclusion of Nature Resorts, Urban Resorts and Private Homes. These new experiences will complement the existing resort collection including One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives; One&Only Le Saint Géran in Mauritius; One&Only Royal Mirage and One&Only The Palm in Dubai; One&Only Ocean Club in The Bahamas, One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico, One&Only Cape Town in South Africa and Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley in The Blue Mountains in Australia. As part of the new portfolio, One&Only has announced the opening of One&Only Nyungwe House in 2017 and One&Only Gorilla’s Nest; both located in Rwanda. Other resorts in development include One&Only Sanya, Hainan, China; One&Only Portonovi in Montenegro, which will be the first property for the collection in Europe, One&Only Seef in Bahrain and two new resorts in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, One&Only Mandarina and One&Only Santa Maria de Xala.

5. Tell us more about your roles with Tourism Australia and Tourism and Events Queensland.
I have proudly sat on the board of Tourism Australia since 2014 and Tourism and Events Queensland since 2010, both alongside a great group of committed board directors.  Our goal is to support and guide the management and assist to determine policy and ensure that the organisations perform in a proper and efficient manner.  It is really an honour as both organisations are headed by two great leaders, John O’Sullivan at Tourism Australia and Leanne Coddington at Tourism and Events Queensland, and very committed management teams.

6. Do you have a mentor or someone in the industry that inspires you?
I find inspiration from so many incredible colleagues in this industry. From my team members who seek to be the best they can and who rally together to achieve great outcomes, to the management and boards of our tourism marketing organisations who don’t give up and who continue to drive the future of the industry in this country.

7. What have been your biggest challenges in your career thus far and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenges have been the impact of external factors that blindside – and these have come at different times and in different forms.  Examples of this were:

  The extreme market conditions in 2008 causing economic distress and the subsequent sale of the Voyages resorts portfolio.  I had joined the company to be part of the management team that was to lead the expansion of the organization and within twelve months I was assisting in the sale of over twenty amazing resorts.
  The recent cyclone that swept through the Whitsundays caused the closure of Hayman Island leading to the evacuation of both guests and staff.

Both of the above situations changed the direction of each of those organisations and caused a number of good colleagues to be made redundant.
The only way to deal with these challenges was to put people first and foremost and at the heart of everything that needed to be done.  The key goal was to keep the teams focused on the job at hand and support them throughout and assist them to secure appropriate alternative roles at the end of process.

8. You’re also passionately involved in charity work – tell us about the charities you dedicate your time to and what they mean to you?
In 2000, I co-founded The Nelune Foundation with my dear friend and cancer sufferer, Nelune Rajapakse, to support public hospital and underprivileged cancer patients.  Since that time to now, we have raised in excess of $18million that has funded a number of important services and infrastructure projects including the establishment of Nelune Cancer Centres in the Prince of Wales Hospital campus and also within the Kinghorn Cancer Centre,  Darlinghurst.
I have also been a board member of CareFlight since 2010, a not-for-profit organisation providing emergency rapid response and aeromedical retrieval services to the ill and injured.

9. What do you believe is the most significant way travel and tourism can impact the world to bring about positive change?
The personal learning and cultural understanding that occurs when people travel is first hand and real. The more we can encourage this, the greater positive outcomes will occur.  Tourism is without barriers – it is local, it is regional, it is national and it is international.  It provides employment, enjoyment, exploration, endeavor and it helps communities develop and prosper.

10. What advice do you have for others wanting to pursue a successful career in travel and tourism?
Demonstrate your total commitment and strive to be the best you can – you have to contribute with passion and heart.  Keep upskilling yourself and learning and then use the skills you develop to help your colleagues achieve and shine. And don’t forget to also use your skills to support the community at large in whatever way you can.

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