Where do the pros holiday?

Holiday hotspots are the beating heart of their business, but where do the captains of the travel trade head for their summer break once they've waved off their customers?

Do they retreat to some pristine paradise that the rest of us only dream about, armed with insider info and industry discounts?

Travel professionals, just like the rest of us, tend to have a bucket list.

Or does the holiday getaway feel more like work for those who live and breathe computer reservation systems and international flight routes?

Australia's top travel executives provide the inside scoop on their summer holiday plans:

Island appeal

One of the hottest destinations for travel execs this summer may not be deserted, but it is an island. Hawaii is proving particularly magnetic, according to the holiday plans being hatched among Virgin Atlantic's senior ranks.

“Many Australian professionals tend to be venturing that way this year. We've had three of our management team head there this winter including myself,” says Gia Acitelli, Virgin Atlantic's Australian sales and distribution manager.

She puts the trend down to the strong Aussie dollar and because Hawaiian Airlines has increased the number of flights to Honolulu. She also notes it's a relatively quick trip from Australia, while the beaches are fantastic and the shopping is great.

Acitelli says the other most popular spots for its staff include “sensual” Tahiti, which she says is making a comeback, and Barbados in the Caribbean because it has “some of the most translucent green water around”.


Bright lights

Travel professionals, just like the rest of us, tend to have a bucket list. And, like us regular tourists, this often includes taking in the ambience of Christmas in London or New Year's Eve in New York.

In fact, New York and London are the most popular destinations among STA Travel Australia's senior management team at the moment, according to the company's Asia Pacific product director, Andrea Robinson.

STA Travel Australia's managing director, David Green, is among those holidaying in New York and he's already anticipating a white Christmas.

“Yes, it's unbelievably freezing, especially coming from 30-degree days in Australia. But New York does a hallmark Christmas like nowhere else,” he says.

Domestic bliss

A getaway that's closer to home can hold special appeal for those who travel a lot on business, according to Georg Ruebensal, the managing director of web travel company Expedia.

He's just returned from a short trip to Margaret River where he says he enjoyed “a beautiful coastline for long walks, diving, whale watching, and great food and wine”.

Bob East, the chief executive of Mantra Group, which operates a national network of hotels, resorts and retreats under the Peppers, Mantra and BreakFree brands, says he'll also be holidaying locally with his family this summer.

East says his family loves the tropics during the Christmas season, so they're off to Palm Cove in Far North Queensland.

From there they'll also explore the Great Barrier Reef, Green Island and the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, he says.

“The weather is warm but the pool temperature is perfect,” East says.

Off the beaten track

According to Ruebensal, a key perk for travel industry execs is that they do hear about great new destinations sooner than most.

A personal travel highlight was the time he visited the ancient Cambodian temple city of Angkor Wat soon after it was rediscovered 20 years ago.

Last year he visited Kota Kinabalu in Borneo, where he explored an extinct volcano and an orangutan sanctuary. “It's still an area where there are very few tourists,” he says.

Justin Lee, the customer experience director at Expedia, is also having a summer holiday with a difference. He's headed to Hakuba, Japan, to take an avalanche safety course.

Expedia marketing and communications manager Amee Evans, meanwhile, is headed to Sri Lanka to trek the tea trails and to surf the coastline of what she describes as an emerging destination.

Natasha McLaughlin, STA Travel Australia's product manager, is going on safari with a private game lodge in Tanzania and then finishing with a beach escape in Zanzibar.

“If you haven't been there yet, do it before everyone discovers how amazing this place is,” she says.

Duty calls

Jetting off to Carnival in Brazil is the summer holiday destination of choice for Tina Tong, managing Director of the luxury travel specialist, FirstClass.

She says, however, that while senior travel execs often do end up holidaying in great places, they aren't necessarily their first choice.

“We often go to destinations for travel-related events or a 'fam trip' - an educational trip provided by a tourism board or suppliers,” she says.

For instance, she's just attended an industry event in Cannes, followed by a fam (familiarisation) trip to Barcelona, and will then head to Courchevel in the French Alps as a guest of Courchevel Tourism.

Even when the trip is just for fun, work can impinge, says STA Travel Australia's Robinson, who is planning to holiday on Castaway Island in Fiji, which has just undergone a resort refurbishment.

“Due to my role, my trips are always a bit of a busman's holiday – I'm always on the look-out for new, unique and exciting spots and product that fits the STA Travel brand."