We had the pleasure to have a discussion with Javier Garcia del Valle, CEO Happy Tour, about his career, leadership and the future of travel industry.
You are an accomplished business man with years of experience and many lessons learned. How do you overcome challenges and how do you make sure that you always make the best decisions?
First of all, thank you for naming me “Accomplished Businesss Man”. It is true that, overall, I could say I have succeeded in my business life although I am more a “Seasoned Business Man”. The experience brings you the knowhow, so that is how you actually overcome challenges, which, between us, are so many that at some point you stop counting them. In many aspects of life, every day is a challenge. But each challenge helps you further, in life and career. I learned in business that if you want to survive, to be better, competitive, succeed, you need to have a team on which you can rely on. Challenges are not to be faced alone, but with the team. And I did that all over my career and it seems it worked out. In the Romanian market, with Happy Tour, we faced a lot of challenges, among the toughest ones being the worldwide economic crisis which affected a lot the tourism industry (tourism is among the firsts, if not the first industry, that is sensitive to economic crisis all over the world). The know-how of us all working together helped us to overcome it and return to the positive financial results of before the crisis. And we kept our position as one of the best travel agencies on the Romanian market. Overall, as Carol S. Dweck said, “In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”
How hard is it to be a leader, to inspire people?
To me, a leader is who inspires people, is about developing and helping others reach their full potential and is also about caring and understanding that it is a privilege being able to be consider a leader. I am who I am, I do not wake in the morning thinking “I am going to be a leader” but rather “I am going to try today to do things better, to talk to the team, to understand which their threats and concerns are”; I have the unique opportunity to influence people’s life every day at work. That’s unique!!. My door is always open to everyone, I believe that by influencing people individually, you end up influencing the entire organization. I like talking with the team, helping them, if I can, and share with them my experience. There are days, like for every human being, that you just want to be a single person and not their “leader” although, even in those days, in those moments, the way you will confront the situation, will also help those around you. A leader always puts his people before himself, he’s skinning in the game. And. at the end of the day, when you go home, you are proud that you were there for them.
Do you have a role model?
I have many models to whom I am looking at in order to be better; better person, better husband, better father, better in my daily work, better leader,…, Better. Although, if I have to choose one, very close to my heart, it is, without a doubt, my father (whom, by the way, today, March 4th, is turning 84). Since I was a kid, he always told us “no matter want you will finally become in life, whatever you do, try to be the best and always do what is right even if that is the hardest way”, and I saw him doing it, putting in practice everything he told us. Starting his new company, growing it, doing everything it needed to be done, arriving the first and leaving the last. Honest, straight forward, transparent, hard worker…. and, I could largely continue.
What is your biggest goal for this year?
As of today, I have only one goal and that is Happy Tour. The biggest goal this year is to keep growing the business in a challenging and ever-changing market. There are several legislative changes in tourism, and we need to adapt to them. As we grow the business, we have some new colleagues and I have to make sure they are well integrated. With three different markets, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, we need to make sure our company culture is well applied in order to standardize our service offering. Also, with our international brand, FCM Travel Solutions. To make sure we provide an unique customer service to our clients and friends and deliver unique experiences to them. It is all about making Happy Tour bigger, better and stronger and we have to do it all together.
You came in Romania 10 years ago. What do you like most about Romania? Do you have a favorite place here?
I love Romania. I see it as my home. Actually, I call it home and I’m not the only one. My family call Romania home. You heard me saying this before “Someone is not from where he was born but from where he is being fed”, and after 10 years, with my family, here; my house, her; my work, here…., I am, in a way, Romanian. I like the variety of landscapes (I love the Danube Delta and every time I have the chance I go there. Is a nature miracle and I love to spend some time there. Transilvania: Sibiu, Sighisoara, Alba….); the food, the traditional habits. Although, what I like the most, is the people. People in Romania is friendly and they make you feel one of their own. In the last year, the restaurants have changed, there are a lot of events and things to do in Bucharest. The capital become so vivid that sometimes remains me of Spain, with people walking in the streets and spending time outside. I am looking forward to the Summer for that.
How do you think the travel industry will evolve in 2019? Are there any trends that might have a real impact?
In 2019, I think we will see the digital impact more in the travel industry. It already has an impact, although it might be better perceived in 2019. In a survey I read about digital trends in tourism almost half of those surveyed have booked and paid for an entire or part of a trip through their smartphone. So, you have to have a digital presence. It is not enough to have a web, it is about chatbots (chatting with the agent in real time while you are at home booking on-line), it is making sure that all webs are mobile friendly, it is about self-booking tools for companies. Travelers want technology to continue simplifying and enhancing their travel experience. And, not less important, the accent goes to customer service. It is about putting our customers first. To always be there for them and supporting them since the first request and during the entire booking process. We need to keep training our people to understand this in order to fulfil customer’s request. To me, these are the 2 main trends: digital and customer service.