I am a firm believer in the power of women. In fact, I am incredibly fortunate to come from a family of incredible women leaders: my wife Toni, my aunt Bea and my cousin Vicki, to name but a few. Thanks to them, every day my world is made stronger, richer and more grateful.
I feel blessed to be surrounded by these women who provide endless vision, confidence, support, inspiration, and example. For when it comes to these great qualities, never have they been needed more than over the past year. COVID-19 has grounded our world and dramatically reduced the radius of our lives. Never could we have imagined that exactly one year ago at this time, international borders would be shutting with speed and fear would spread as a new virus raced from north to south, east to west, paralysing our essential industry and putting lives and livelihoods at risk. Similarly, who could have imagined that the now familiar WFH (work-from-home) acronym would become the new norm.
Our COVID-world lifestyle has been unique, not only in how we have all had to operationally navigate our way around it while keeping connected to the world, but also in strengthening our awareness to what it takes every single day to lead companies through the toughest of times.
For when it comes to leading companies, I count myself so fortunate to work alongside a predominantly female leadership team who inspire, motivate and challenge me every single day. And that is why this year on International Women’s Day as we #ChoosetoChallenge, I want to celebrate the remarkable tenacity and resilience of the Trafalgar women around the world. We have all experienced one of the toughest years of our lives, both in business and personally. This toughness has shown exactly what it takes to be able to combine all of the roles of an individual, every single day. And yet somehow, our tenacious women leaders at Trafalgar have been able to do this while maintaining an incredible sense of hope, optimism, confidence, and stamina.
I want to highlight five women I work closely with, who over this past year have tirelessly helped to navigate our business through these turbulent times. These women are unique, each having grown in the company to now be the role models and leaders shaping the future of travel and our brands. They illustrate the care shown by so many individuals I work with, and process an invaluable depth of vision and passion that comes from nurturing female talent, growth and development in business. I have been awed by how, despite other tensions and strains, we have been able to pivot to get us to this stage of momentum of future-travel hope and opportunity. Together they have ensured that we are ready for when our world opens once more, as tourism slowly restarts through strengthening of traveller confidence and easing of travel regulations, all a result of the rolling out of vaccines around the world.
Melissa Da Silva, President USA
Trafalgar, CostSaver, Brendan Vacations and Contiki
With over 8 years in the business, our USA president Melissa leads our largest market and largest team. Throughout this past year she has navigated the new home based lifestyle, juggling WFH and home-schooling of two daughters with grace and poise. Despite the remarkable blurring of daily pressures and demands, she has graciously traversed her multitude of roles as: mother, teacher, daughter, sister, partner, friend and of course business leader. You can get to know more about Melissa and her journey here.
Katrina Barry, Managing Director Australia
Trafalgar, CostSaver and Contiki
Katrina, who holds 6 years in our TTC business, joined the Trafalgar tribe just last year after returning from maternity leave following the birth of her second child, making her a super mum to two under 2. Since joining, Katrina has not only been a leading force in the role of Managing Director for our brands in Australia, but has also leaned in to navigate the challenges of the strict Australian travel restrictions. With stamina and energetic vision and driven by success, Katrina is an exemplary leader and role model for many of our young female talent across the business as she brilliantly balances her young family with a demanding leadership role. Learn more about Katrina in her interview here.
Jillian Gattrell, Director of Operations Europe
Trafalgar and CostSaver
Growing in the company over 14 years Jillian, who is now our Director of Operations, was the instrumental driving force in a new vision of travel protocol in a post covid world. Jillian’s commitment and passion to respond to travellers needs, while being lead by government and authority guidelines to create new standards of wellbeing protocol, has been exceptional. Watching Jillian march forward into new unpaved territory with a clear vision and determination to deliver for our guests has been exceptional. Learn more from Jillian here.
Dee Marrocco, Chief Marketing Officer
Trafalgar and CostSaver
Having worked across brands and roles in TTC over a 10-year period, Dee has grown within the business, moving from her home in Australia to be our brands CMO, now based in Geneva. Through these turbulent times, as a brand we have been faced with factual and emotional complexities as borders shut and our guests’ concerns have grown and perpetually shifted. Dee’s vision and passion has been instrumental in bringing a relatable simplicity to our communications and return to travel plans across all of our global offices. You can read more about Dee and her journey here.
Mae Cheah, President Asia
Trafalgar and CostSaver
In addition to these four women, of particular standout for me is Mae , who has not only developed within the business to now lead our Asia office, but is holding such an important position in a region where traditionally only 35% of women hold senior leadership positions. The multiplicity of this achievement is not taken for granted, nor is her determination for success. Mae brings a hunger to achieve and a gentleness of care to her daily actions where she consistently pushes beyond the traditional norms to explore the new, to expand our sales footprint across Asia. Read Mae’s story here
I am so proud to have my team by my side who are all exemplary leaders, and even more proud that of my executive team, 82% are female. I’m proud to be part of a business where we can lead by example and showcase the power that female leadership can offer our industry.
Today, on #IWD2021 and always, I celebrate with you all of the women around us who we can confidently look to as our leaders in mind, heart and spirit. This innate strength and depth of leadership style is critical to us all as we work together, to rebuild a future tourism industry and world that is genuinely equal, supportive, diverse, caring, and confident, reinspiring global tourism’s power as a force for good for all.