Emily Chang’s earliest experience with the tourism industry was in the role of “crying baby on the plane,” and later “toddler that won’t stay in her seat.” This early exposure to the wonders of travel has made her a lifelong wanderlust and adventurer at heart. Emily joined SITA World Tours at their Los Angeles headquarters in 2005, after having spent over a decade living abroad in Asia. She currently serves as SITA’s E-Commerce Manager and works closely with travel agent consortia, handling SITA’s marketing, tour promotions, and delivering campaigns.
As part of her love of the travel industry and ongoing continued education in the field, she also holds a Masters Degree in Tourism Administration from George Washington University.
Travel Research Online (TRO): What locations did you travel to as a child in your starring roles as “crying baby on the plane” and “toddler that won’t stay in her seat”?
Emily Chang (EC): Fortunately for my parents (and everyone else on the plane), these were just cross-country trips from my hometown in New Jersey to California. I do still find it hard to stay in my seat when flying though. Aisle seat please!
TRO: What was your “aha!” moment, the moment when you realized you wanted to make travel your career?
EC: I don’t know that there was an exact moment. My parents took me on a backpacking trip through Western Europe when I was a child, and we spent a lot of time popping in and out of local travel agencies during the trip (that probably could have been prevented if we’d had an operator like SITA make all the arrangements beforehand). I was fascinated by all the action going on behind the endless typing on computers by travel agents and airline check-in staff, so that’s perhaps where the interest came from.
TRO: Tell us about your role as E-Commerce Manager at SITA World Tours.
EC: In this role, I am actively involved in both the advertising and marketing functions of the company. I work closely with our preferred travel agent consortia in facilitating and implement the annual marketing plans. This involves the creation of promotional material, brochures & other sales collateral and agent training presentations. I also work with our tourism board partners in destination joint-marketing and promotional efforts, both in traditional and digital/online formats.
TRO: Is there room in your work for your passions to really come out?
EC: Definitely. I have always had a love of art and design and minored in graphic design in college. I actually started out as the Creative Designer at SITA, and my role in the company has allowed me to combine my two main passions – design and travel!
TRO: What does SITA offer that makes it unique from other travel companies?
EC: In addition to our extensive line of packaged tours that extends across six continents and just about every corner of the world, we’re also very focused on customized bookings. Our reservation staff is highly specialized in developing tailor-made programs that ensure travelers a smooth trip that also fulfills all of their interests and requirements. At any given time, SITA operates a very broad range of special interest touring, including women’s groups, family friendly journeys, unique religious pilgrimages such as our Luther Tour in 2016, higher education groups, art & cultural groups and so on. There’s really no limit to the type of tour that SITA can provide.
TRO: What can travel agents expect when booking a tour with SITA?
EC: We offer a lot of destinations that are less familiar to even seasoned travel agents. When agents book with SITA, they can be assured of our destination knowledge and our expertise in arranging all the details that their travelers are looking for. We take the utmost care of all requests and leads from agents and are available to answer any questions from both agents and travelers.
As a thank you for the continued support of the travel agent community, we also offer an $82 American Express gift card (in celebration of our 82nd year as a company) to all web-registered agents that make a booking with SITA in 2015.
TRO: From your position of working with travel professionals, do you see anything that is currently holding the industry back?
EC: In the past, it has been the availability of proper connections and gateways for the air component, however, that has largely been reduced with more departures, larger seat capacity and increased gateways worldwide, regardless of the destination.
Today, the good news is that the travel professional is now better equipped to swiftly offer the consumer a unique, even customized travel program inclusive of Air, that touches upon what the customer or group is looking for. Unfortunately, what holds back the industry is when the media hypes up a specific issue that causes the general public to look unfavorably upon a destination that is otherwise safe. A recent example of that was the Ebola issue, impacting beautiful, safari-providing countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, despite no Ebola cases being found there.
As travel professionals we have to stay true to the facts, all while ensuring our client’s safety, enjoyment and comfort.
TRO: What is your favorite travel destination or travel memory?
EC: My favorite destination tends to be the one I just returned from! There are many great options to choose from including some of the trips I have taken with SITA. If I had to choose just one memory, I would say hang-gliding in Rio de Janeiro. It’s important to note that I am not an adrenaline junkie when it comes to physical activities, and even the thought of going on a roller coaster makes me anxious, so there really should have been no way that I would pay to willingly run off of the edge of a cliff. But my friend was interested in the idea and so our guide took us to the starting point and showed us the view. At that moment I was completely sold. And I wasn’t disappointed, seeing every angle of this magnificent city, in the same way as the birds do. I did not care for the beach landing though, which is when the anxiety finally kicked in and ended with shoes full of sand!
TRO: What is the best dish you’ve ever eaten on your travels?
EC: It’s hard to narrow it down – I’m a proponent of all foods spicy and sour, and I’m not adverse to the appropriately named stinky tofu in Taiwan. However, the best memory I have associated with a dish is a simple lamb, cheese, and potato stew that I had in a little café in Reykjavik, Iceland. It just hit all the right notes – delicious, fresh and comforting, a nice welcome to a beautiful and chilly (I’m from Los Angeles!) city. I should mention that it wasn’t even my order – I was eating what my travel companion had ordered and the limited quantity perhaps made it taste all that much better.
TRO: Is there anything new or exciting on the horizon for SITA World Tours?
EC: On the product side, we are continuing to expand our Europe offerings. New packages to the Baltic and Scandinavian regions join our Europe product line, which already includes small group, country road touring to the U.K, Ireland, France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia and more.
We are also very excited about launching our web-based booking engine, which will allow agents to book any tour up to 30 days prior to departure and receive instant confirmation. This will cut down on agents’ time on the phone and also facilitate any bookings during non-office hours, providing for a quick turnaround time.
To learn more about Emily Chang and SITA World Tours, visit them online at www.sitatours.com.