RIT Croatia, Class of 2004
Hotel and Resort Management (IHSM)
Job title: Area Manager
Maja, tell us a bit about yourself and your RIT Croatia experience.
I enrolled at RIT Croatia (at that time - ACMT) in Dubrovnik
in 1998 with a major in hospitality and tourism management. Being part of RIT
Croatia from the very beginning gave me a great opportunity to see the program
evolve and grow to one of the best hospitality programs in our region. Besides
the connections and friends you make for life, I enjoyed the hands-on approach
in learning through creative projects and teamwork. This enabled me to think
out of the box in any situation with a bigger picture in mind.
You have been with the Booking.com since 2012. Can you tell us why Booking.com, what attracted you to develop your career under their brand?
After finishing school, I started working in hotels at
different positions and departments practicing the knowledge I have gained
during my education. With the evolution of Internet and technology becoming
part of our daily lives, I saw the need for the hospitality industry to adapt
to the changing demands of the customers. Based on my experience in hotels I
saw the opportunity to develop further in one of the world’s leading digital
travel companies, Booking.com. Besides being part of a renowned brand with a
global company culture, I saw the long-term impact the company can have on
tourism in our region. By working with a team of enthusiastic colleagues, we
are dedicated to helping accommodation partners grow their brands, and their
businesses, by giving them global exposure and helping them fill their rooms
every day. With tens of thousands of properties
listed in Croatia today we helped to create a level playing field between small
independent hotels, holiday homes and urban apartments, with large resorts and
established hotel chains. By working for Booking.com for the last 8 years, I
enjoy being part of the change and seeing the growth of tourism in our region.
Which parts of your job do you find most enjoyable and which are the most challenging?
I believe that no job can be successful without great people that make it happen. So seeing your team and colleagues grow and develop in their roles is very fulfilling.
Challenging yet rewarding part of my job is adapting to
constant change. Multiple factors can affect the hospitality industry and I
think the COVID-19 pandemic is a clear example. So continuous learning and
openness to change are qualities that can help quicker adaptation to new
situations and new realities.
How important was the experience you gained during your internships? How do you see the culture of internships developing in the future?
Internships are a great way to experience the reality of
working and they give you a head start for the transition from college to
workplace. I had a great opportunity to work on cruise ships as part of my
internship, and this experience prepared me for all my future jobs. Working
with colleagues from different parts of the world enabled a better
understanding of cultural differences and being open to diversity. In addition,
working in a dynamic environment has prepared me to be able to deal with
challenging situations that can happen in any aspect of your work or life. I
believe internships are also a great way to experiment with finding your true
calling and passion for your possible future career.
How important is quality education in dealing with unexpected and challenging times? How has RIT Croatia specifically, prepared you for this?
Quality education as well as lifelong learning are a
crucial part to prepare you for unexpected and challenging times. Education
helps broaden views, which in return enables you to see different possibilities
during challenging times. As part of the education at RIT Croatia by working on
different projects, we learned to be creative and to look for new approaches to
old procedures. In many ways, this has helped me deal with unexpected
situations with greater confidence and optimism.
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, do you see the changes that are occurring as a threat or opportunity? How do you see the hospitality industry developing in the future?
The global pandemic has had an immense impact on the industry but the industry is resilient and will bounce back as it did many times before. We know from previous experience that people will one-day travel again, when it is safe and appropriate to do so.
Travelling post COVID-19 will affect every aspect of travel, and we expect travelers to have specific requirements when it comes to their accommodation choices. This will mean the industry and businesses will need to be agile and adapt, but this is all very possible and already we are seeing this in action. For example, we have already seen some providers introduce new cleaning protocols to respond to the understandable nervousness with consumers around hygiene standards in accommodation.
An opportunity and one of the positive lessons the pandemic has taught us is to highlight the impact our actions can have on the environment, meaning sustainable travel is likely to be more top of mind for travelers than before.
From our research undertaken earlier this year, we
already know that prior to COVID-19, there was a noticeable shift in travelers
becoming more conscious about the environmental impact they can have on
destinations. Over 82% global travelers identified sustainable travel as
important to them, while over half (58%) global travelers said they are more
determined to make sustainable choices when looking to travel again in the
future and this is likely to continue.
Thinking back on your days at RIT Croatia, what is your favorite memory?
It is difficult to choose only one memory but I always
fondly remember the great atmosphere both in class and outside of it. Friendly
and professional relationship between faculty and students made the experience
more productive and fun. In addition, Dubrovnik was a great city to spend
student days and I always happily go back for work or vacation.
Are you still in contact with your classmates?
I am still in contact with some classmates but I am also very happy when I meet other alumni from different generations as we happily share experience from our college days and strengthen our connection as RIT Croatia alumni.