Kat Van Dijk, JUCY
Kat Van Dijk entered tourism relatively recently when she joined JUCY just over four years ago. She is GM Southern Lakes at what was originally a car rental company which has expanded into campervans, cruise and hotels. It is described as a tourism business with one clear goal and that is to be a major international brand.
Title: GM Southern Lakes
Job description: I’m responsible for overseeing, leading and continually growing the Southern Lakes Regional strategy and securing future business opportunities that drive performance and profitability. In addition, I’m responsible for overseeing the Asian market through the effective development and delivery of the Asian sales and marketing strategy for JUCY Group.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your job? I love that no day is the same, variety is the spice of life and I get that on a daily basis – it suits my character and personality. I love how JUCY operates outside the corporate box. We believe in a life less ordinary and it doesn’t get much better than being responsible for delivering tourists holiday solutions that give them the green light to have the time of their lives!
What is the toughest part of your job? With having such ambitious growth strategies, growth pains are inevitable. As most of us experience, time waits for no-one and that can be challenging when there’s so much to do – it’s an exciting issue to have though.
What is the biggest challenge facing tourism today? Coping with the massive growth in tourist numbers – in terms of infrastructure, quality of experience and delivering on our 100% Pure NZ proposition.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be? Personally, I’m struggling to find fault, especially when most operators are experiencing massive growth. Unlike other industries, tourism has a lot of support networks such as Tourism Export Council, Tourism New Zealand and the Backpacker Youth and Adventure Tourism Association. There’s so much information at our fingertips – the key is how we decipher and utilise that data to best support our growth strategies.
Why did you decide to work in tourism? I have only been in tourism for four-and-a-half years, so fairly new. For me, it’s about working in something that you love and you’re passionate about. My passions are travel, shopping and socializing – I did the bars in my younger days and then I had 13 years in the apparel industry travelling around the world sample shopping and on excursions. So it was time for a change and travel was the one I hadn’t ticked off – I was really interested in tourism and then along came JUCY.
Describe your career path: I didn’t study tourism. My path has been more jungle gym than corporate ladder – it’s been pretty broad. I spent 13 years with Pacific Brands in sales and marketing for underwear brands working with top buyers here and travelling overseas with designers as well as doing a photo shoot with Dan Carter in his jockeys. I came to tourism through JUCY, which I joined more than four years ago as global sales and marketing manager for the US, Australia and New Zealand, which was a baptism of fire.
What have been the major challenges/rewards you’ve faced in your career? JUCY is a fast moving brand. It’s innovative and technologically advanced and that comes with its challenges. Tim Alpe is an amazing CEO but he’s an entrepreneur and he needs managing – in a good way. I love that challenge, it’s rewarding and the great thing about JUCY is it’s not scared of taking risks – it’s not going to get it right every time but when it does, it’s magic.
Has there been a role model or any other type of inspiration that’s motivated you in your career? Having been in this industry for such a short time it is Tim and Dan Alpe who have been my mentors. But what I have found in tourism, in particular, is that there is so much support from other operators, agents and industry – people who will go out for a drink with you and tell you what you need to know. I think that’s something that is really unique to this industry that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Everyone is here to help you and everyone is here for the experience as well.
What are you preoccupied with at the moment at work? We are preparing to launch a new luxury boat in the Milford Sound which all going well will be there for mid-April. We are currently building our second JUCY SNOOZE pod hotel in the heart of Queenstown following the first one in Christchurch. It is set to open early 2018. We are also developing staff accommodation in Milford to house all our new crew and I’m personally building a house on the hill in Queenstown so there is a lot of building work going on!
What advice would you give women thinking about entering the industry today? Absolutely do it. Don’t worry about what age you are – I probably bucked all the trends starting in my early 40s and I’ve never looked back. It’s a really rewarding industry to work in and I’ve worked in a few.
Monday: Q&A with Dive Tatapouri’s Chris Savage