1. How did you end up working in the tourism industry?
After completing my studies at the Hotel School The Hague, I was determined to “escape” compulsory Dutch military service. I was offered a position as the Executive Assistant Manager of a 4-star property in Pattaya and, after an interview in The Netherlands, I flew off to Thailand some 27 years ago to start my new job.
2. What inspired you to start this company?
I started Khiri Travel out of a passion for travel. I saw the opening of Thailand’s neighboring countries, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in the early 90’s as an opportunity, and started Khiri Travel as a one-stop DMC offering those four countries as one destination.
3. Describe your first sale/customer.
My first sale was for a group of veterans to Thailand, courtesy of my father, a Dutch marine. The most memorable customers in the early days, however, was a group of Hmong youth whose families resettled from Laos to the US after the Vietnam war and returned to meet their relatives living in Thai and Laotian refugee camps.
4. What was your first tour like – and what has changed compared to your most recent?
In the pioneer years, we would receive arriving groups in the hotel room we used as an office. We’d offer local snacks, drinks and a chat. To this day, treating our guests as friends continues to be a core part of who we are.
5. What part of the company are you most proud of and why?
Each and every person that works for Khiri Travel. Watching the passion, dedication and love they put into creating itineraries so that our travellers discover our destinations is extremely fulfilling.
6. What do you feel sets your company apart from other DMC’s?
We bring to market unique products that demonstrates our passion for discovery while contributing to the triple bottom line: People, Planet and Profit.
7. What does a standard working day look like for you?
Standard working day… come-on! We work in the hospitality – we neither do nor want “standard working day.”
8. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Knowing you will help fulfill the dreams of guests who are being introduced to different cultures, making connections with local communities and leaving with lifelong memories.
9. What keeps you up at night?
The way some governments, who see the hospitality industry as a vital source of income for their country, but still do not work aggressively to improve service standards by educating and training their future generations.
10. What other CEO’s do you look up to and why?
Actually, I am encouraged the most by the growing number of hospitality CEOs that are finding ways to share their knowledge and give back to the industry after they “retire.”
11. Where do you see the company in 5 years?
With the potential I see in each of our countries, I’m confident we can double our business without compromising our sustainable model.