1. How did you end up working in the tourism industry?
After traveling in Australia for 3 weeks in 1996, I resigned from my job in Holland, bought a one-way ticket to Beijing and travelled for 18 months all over North & South East Asia. After travelled for such a long period I got bored and wanted to do something, but still travelling, So I applied as a Tour leader with Dutch tour operators and 3 months after my return to Holland, I was back in China to lead my first tour group!
2. What inspired you to start this company?
I spend 6 months in Indonesia as I loved it so much; first of all the people, but also its diversity, the food, the culture, the roughness, climbing the volcano’s, hiking in Tropical rainforests, relaxing on the beaches, snorkelling, diving, you name it, you find it in Indonesia!
After working as a Tour leader for over 5 years in South East Asia, I started Happy Trails in 2003 in Bogor (west Java) we had our first guests in 2004 and we moved the office in 2005 to Bali to create even more and better great memories for our all valuable clients. In 2008 we have set up an office in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur as this is another great destination for travellers.
3. Describe your first sale/customer.
Our first customer was the company I worked for a Tour Leader; Koning Aap Reizen (Monkey King Travels) and Shoestring as they merged in 2003/2004.
4. What was your first tour like – and what has changed compared to your most recent?
The first tour was a Sumatra Java Bali tour with 5 Pax from Koning Aap Reizen. I thought I need to be the TL for this tour to see how everything is running. Not much in the tour has changed, we only had added a train ride form Bandung to Yogyakarta I believe.
5. What part of the company are you most proud of and why?
Our employees, because they do all the actual work; create programs, the sales, the operations etc. without them we are nothing as a company.
6. What do you feel sets your company apart from other DMC’s?
Compared to other DMC’s in Indonesia and Malaysia; Our commitment to sustainable travel and our advanced IT systems for ourselves and our clients; the tour operators.
7. What does a standard working day look like for you?
Alarm rings at 06.30. Bring my son to school at 07.30. Back home at 08.00 to have breakfast while watching “De Wereld draait door” and the news via Dutch TV channel BVN. Go to the office. Most days starting with a meeting with one of the managers. Try to be home before kids going to bed.
8. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The smile from our 8 months old daughter.
9. What keeps you up at night?
Thinking about improvements, ideas etc to move forward.
10. What other CEO’s do you look up to and why?
Bruce Poon Tip; the founder of G-adventures. How he created one of the most successful adventure tour operators in the world by not doing what any other tour operator is doing.
11. where do you see the company in 5 years?
I do not have the ambition to grow big. Our aim is to create great memories for our clients in Indonesia and Malaysia and I believe we can only do this only if we are not too big, then we will lose the attention for small details which are so important to create that great memory.
I have always said; if we do ca 10.000 pax and will have about 40 staff. That would be my goal. And in 2016 we are getting very close to those numbers.