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Tourism career takes off

Published: 08 Nov 2021

As COVID-19 vaccinations increase and the opening up of overseas travel is happening for Australians, travel agents are some of the most excited professionals anticipating a return to global travel.

A graduate of the CIT tourism Certificate III (SIT30116), Luke has forged a unique and interesting career in both international and local tourism, most recently as a cool climate wine tour expert but mainly exploring Vietnam and leading Vietnam War history tours for small groups.

What are you doing in your career in tourism?

I had started operating battlefield and cultural tours overseas mainly in Vietnam before the pandemic struck. After returning to Australia, I decided to undertake the Certificate III in Tourism at CIT to gain a deeper insight into the industry. I was, however, blessed with a fantastic job offer at the same time and have been operating luxury private cool climate winery tours since.

The snap lockdown put a pause on tours, and because the local wine industry is predominantly across the border in Murrumbateman and Lake George, we are dependent on NSW being able to open up again like the ACT has done.

During the downtime caused by the lockdown, I spent time updating my overseas tour plans and website and put more time into developing connections with potential partners and promotional material.

Where is your favourite place to travel and why?

Without hesitation, I have to say Vietnam. I have a long and deep connection to Vietnam, beginning with my father's wartime experiences that led me to study the war and broader history, culture and cuisine.

I've been travelling and living there on and off now for about 12 years. I typically travel all over the country independently by motorbike, which gives you a close look at the everyday life of the people. While the landscapes are so diverse and incredibly photogenic, it's the everyday people that make a traveller's time in Vietnam richer than anywhere I've been in the world.

As Australians, we have a strong historic connection through our military operation during the 60s and 70s, so many guests want to visit Nui Dat and the Long Tan battlefield. Even if you limit yourself to the former Australian Task Force area of operations, you can find yourself immersed in a cross section of broader Asia - verdant rice paddy fields fringed by the azure south China Sea; rugged dragon like mountain ranges riddled with deep caves; vast colonial rubber plantations; pockets of thick jungle; tiny villages full of smiling faces right through to a large cosmopolitan coastal city that used to house the Australian logistics base and R&R centre. All that is just one province - a few hours' drive from Saigon!

And don't get me started on the cuisine, or we'll be here all day!

What are some of the highlights and challenges of this profession?

The highlights for me involve everything from the background research about the tour subject matter, helping customers plan their perfect tour tailored to their interests, through to being on tour sharing my knowledge and passion, while seeing my customers happy - enjoying and appreciating the effort I go to  in providing them these unique experiences.

Communication is incredibly important and getting that right could be seen as a challenge. Communication begins with customer enquiries, where you can easily make or break their decision to book a tour with you. Another key part of communication is actively listening to your guests. From the very point of picking up guests I'm always on the lookout for how much interaction the guests want, how they respond to me.

Some memories of travel?

On my first trip to Vietnam, standing on the places my dad had lived, patrolled and fought, I met the most incredible, hospitable, and lovely people in the very places that dad's nightmares were born. It turned my own life around and filled me with hope for humanity. Although dad was unable to travel due to his war related illnesses, I documented the whole thing in a little documentary, and photos for him, and even called him and gave him a chance to talk a bit with the people.

Circa 2002, I was living in Uganda. I went to volunteer with the Jane Goodall Institute to study wild chimps in the Semuliki National Park, but when I got there the research was cancelled. So, I lived at the back of the Entebbe Zoo, rehabilitating orphaned infant chimps. Their wild families had been killed for bushmeat, mostly in Congo and Rwanda and they'd been smuggled for the black-market pet trade.

After 3 months of mental, emotional and physical rehab, they went to join a semi-wild chimp community on an Island on Lake Victoria.

What was your experience of studying at CIT?

What I enjoyed the most was how really practical and industry-focussed the learning experience at CIT is. I can only speak for the tourism staff, but I found our instructors incredibly knowledgeable and really experienced both as educators and in the industry.

All the learning material was both enjoyable and really useful for understanding the tourism industry in great depth, and all the practical tasks and activities (both in and out of the classroom) added knowledge and experiences directly relevant to work in the industry.

I want to also add that I found that all of my instructors were really friendly, approachable and supportive, which reinforced the whole experience as a really positive and enjoyable one. If I do have an opportunity to finish the Diploma in the future, I would not hesitate. And for anyone looking to turn their passion for travel, near or far, I have zero hesitation in recommending CIT.

For more details about studying tourism at CIT visit our website.