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One on one: Tammy Gonzalez

The CEO of Unique Vacations Inc., worldwide representative for Sandals Resorts, talks to us about her time in the travel industry

 

What attracted you to the travel industry?
The travel industry presented itself as an opportunity and I had the good sense to take it. Now, 32 years later, it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. In those days, we were a very small but enthusiastic company of just six people and one hotel. Today, Sandals Resorts is one of the most recognized brands in the world. It’s been an incredible journey and, ultimately, that’s the joy of travel and this industry.

What’s a typical day at work like for you?
Crazy and wonderful. There’s always so much happening and, as the innovators in the luxury all-inclusive segment, we’ve got the ability to imagine the next big thing and then make it happen. I’m lucky enough to come to a place I love, work with people who are like family and do a job that I’m incredibly passionate about.

How does the rest of the company operate?
Unique Vacations Inc. is the face of Sandals Resorts International (SRI) to the travel industry. We work incredibly closely with SRI in the Caribbean to ensure that the promises we make to our partners are realized where it matters most: customer experience. Our seamless ability to work together without bureaucracy and our commitment to the brand is part of the secret to our success. We work together to make sure each of us succeeds so that the company and our partners can succeed, and our guests in turn have the time of their lives.

What’s new for your organization this year?
As a company, we’re committed to innovation and expansion. We’re in the midst of bringing our recently introduced overwater suites — the first in the Caribbean — to more locations. We’re readying Sandals Royal Barbados, our second resort on the island, which will debut at the end of the year. At the same time, we’ll get underway with construction on Sandals LaSource St. Lucia — our fourth hotel in the destination.

How important are travel agents to your business?
Travel agents are very important to us and have been from the very start. We have a true partnership and consider them invaluable to our business and to the consumers they assist. Our chairman is very clear here. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them and, as he says, we look forward to continuing our ‘love affair’ with agents for years to come.

What kind of vacations do you enjoy?
The ones spent with the people that matter the most to me in the world — my husband and my children. And, while a different time zone in a different country is always exciting, staycations appeal to me as well.

What advice would you give anyone wanting to get into the travel industry?
Be prepared to work hard, have fantastic experiences and meet great people. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.

What makes you feel hopeful about the travel industry going forward?
I think that it’s the human element of travel that makes me feel most hopeful for our industry. Automation has revolutionized the business and, while this process may have originally spawned a sense of fear, I think the sheer volume of information has made first-hand experience and knowledge paramount. Agents are now more necessary than perhaps they’ve ever been. This is really good news for the industry and it’s good news for consumers as well.

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